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Century Magazine 


Pictorial Composition 

And the Critical Judgment 
of Pictures 




H. R. POORE, A.N.A. 


Copyright, 1903, 


Pbluhtd t March, 

// is with sincere pleasure that 
I dedicate this book to my Jirst 
teacher, Peter Moran, as an 
acknowledgment to the interest he 
inspired in this important subject 


THIS book has been prepared because, although 
the student has been abundantly supplied with 
aids to decorative art, there is little, within his 
reach, concerning pictorial composition. 

I have added thereto hints on the critical judg- 
ment of pictures with the hope of simplifying 
to the many the means of knowing pictures, 
prompted by the recollection of the topsyturvi- 
ness of this question as it confronted my own 
mind a score of years ago. I was then apt to 
strain at a Corot hoping to discover in the em- 
ployment of some unusual color or method the 
secret of its worth, and to think of the old mas- 
ters as a different order of beings from the rest 
of mankind. 

Let me trust that, to a degree at least, these 
pages may prove iconoclastic, shattering the 
images created of superstitious reverence and al- 
lowing, in their stead, the artist to be substituted 
as something quite as worthy of this same 

The author acknowledges the courtesies of the 
publishers of Scribners, The Century and Mun- 
aey's magazines, D. Appleton, Manzi, Joyant & 
Co., and of the artists giving consent to the use of 


their pictures for this book. Acknowledgment is 
also made to F. A. Beardsley, H. K. Freeman and 
L. Lord, for sketches contributed thereto. 


Orange, N. J. t Feb. i, 

Preface to Second Edition 

THE revision which the text of this book has 
undergone has clarified certain parts of it and 
simplified the original argument by a complete 
sequence of page references and an index. The 
appendix reduces the contents to a working for- 
mula with the purpose of rendering practical the 
suggestions of the text. 

In its present form it seeks to meet the require- 
ments of the student who desires to proceed from 
the principles of formal and decorative composi- 
tion into the range of pictorial construction. 

H. R. P. 



aatrra PASS 




Balance of the Steelyard ... 28 

Postulates 29 

Vertical and Horizontal Balance . 41 

The Natural Axis 44 

Apparent or Formal Balance . . 46 

Balance by Opposition of Line . . 49 

Balance by Opposition of Spots . . 52 

Transition of Line 55 

Balance by Gradation .... 58 

Balance of Principality or Isolation . 61 

Balance of Cubical Space ... 62 



Getting into the Picture .... 74 

Getting out of the Picture ... 80 





Circular Composition ... 94 
Reconstruction for Circular Ob- 
servation 102 

ANGLE 107 

The Vertical Line in Angular 

Composition 110 

Angular Composition Based on 
the Horizontal .... 116 

The Line of Beauty .... 123 

The Rectangle . . . . .129 


The Figure in Landscape . . . 136 



Principality by Emphasis, Sacri- 
fice, and Contrast . . . .160 
Gradation 168 







Suggestiveness 193 

Mystery . . . . . . . 197 

Simplicity 200 

Keserve 201 

Belief 206 

Finish 207 


XIII. THE MAN IN ART .... 211 



Values 242 





INDEX 279 



Light and Shade. Inness . Frontispiece 

Fundamental Forms of Construction . . 17 

Lion in the Desert. Gerdme .... 31 

Salute to the Wounded. Detaille ... 31 

The Connoisseurs. Fortuny .... 32 

Pines in Winter 32 

Portrait of Sarah Bernhardt. Clarin . . 37 

Lady with Muff. A. Hewitt .... 38 

Indian and Horse. A. C. Bode ... 53 

The Cabaret. IShermitte 53 

Along the Shore. G. Butler .... 54 

Pathless. A. H. Hinton . . . . . 54 

Her Last Moorings. E. W. Smith . . 59 

Stable Interior. A. Mauve .... 59 

Photography Nearing the Pictorial . . 60 

View Taken with a Wide Angle Lens . . 69 

Three Pictures Found with the View-Metre 70 

The Path of the Surf 85 

The Shepherdess. Millet 85 

Circular Observation The Principle . . 86 

The Slaying of the Unpropitious Messengers 86 

Huntsman and Hounds 91 

Portrait of Van der Geest. Van Dyck . 91 
Marriage of Ariadne and Bacchus. Tinto- 
retto 92 

Endymion. Watts 92 



Fight Over the Body of Patroclus. Weirtz 99 

1807. Meissonier 99 

Yille d'Avary. Corot 99 

The Hermit. Gerard Dow .... 100 

The Forge of Vulcan. Boucher . . . 100 
Orpheus and Eurydice. Corot . . .104 

Holy Family. Andrea del Sarto * . . 104 

Allegory of Spring. Botticelli . . . 105 

Dutch Fisher Folks. F. V. Spitzer . . 105 

The Cossack's Reply. Repine . . . 105 

The Herder. Jacque 108 

Alone. J. Israels Ill 

The Dance. Carpeaux Ill 

The Crucifixion. A'ime Morot . . . 112 

Lady Archibald Campbell. Whistler . . 112 

Alice. W. M. Chase 112 

Out of the Book of Truth. Claude Lorraine 119 

The Beautiful Gate. Raphael . . . 119 

Sketches from Landscapes. Henry Ranger 120 

Hogarth's Line of Beauty 124 

Mother and Child. Orchardson . . . 127 

Stream in Winter. W. E. Schofield . . 127 

Repose of the Reapers. IShermitte . . 128 

Departure for the Chase. Cuyp . . . 128 

The Altar 130 

Roman Invasion. F. Lamayer . . . 130 

The Flock. P. Moron 130 

The Dance. Rubens 130 

Man with Stone. F. V. Spitzer . . . 130 

Detail: Flying Drapery. Michael Angela 130 

Swallows. J. L. Shepherd .... 130 

Winter Landscape. After photo . . . 131 

Reconciliation. W. Glackens 131 


Line versus Space 131 

December. After photo 131 

The Lovers. Gussow 147 

The Poulterers. Wallander .... 147 
The Night Watch. Remlrandt . . .148 

Keturn of the Royal Hunting Party. Isaley 148 

The View-Metre 156 

Note Book Sketches from Rubens, Velas- 
quez, Claude Lorraine and Murillo. F. A. 

Beardsley 161 

A Reversible Effect of Light and Shade . 162 

Fundamental Forms of Chiaroscuro . . 169 

Fundamental Forms of Chiaroscuro . . 170 

The Hillside 175 

River Fog 175 

The Chant 175 

Death of Caesar. Gerdme 176 

The Travel of the Soul. Howard Pyle . 176 

The North River. Prendergast . . . 203 

An Intrusion. Bull 203 

Landscape Arrangement. Guerin . . 203 

The Madonna of the Veil. Raphael . . 204 

The Last Judgment. Michael Angelo . . 204 

Birth of Virgin Mary. Durer . . . 204 

The Annunciation. Botticelli . . . 204 

In Central Park . . .' .... 204 

The "boLTeniers . 204 

Pictorial Composition 


"The painter is a compound of a poet and a man of science." 

"It is working within limits that the artist reveals himself." 



THIS volume is addressed to three classes of 
readers ; to the layman, to the amateur photog- 
rapher, and to the professional artist. To the 
latter it speaks more in the temper of the studio 
discussion than in the spirit didactic. But, em- 
boldened by the friendliness the profession al- 
ways exhibits toward any serious word in art, 
the writer is moved to believe that the matters 
herein discussed may be found worthy of the 
artist's attention perhaps of his question. For 
that reason the tone here and there is argumen- 

The question of balance has never been reduced 
to a theory or stated as a set of principles which 
could be sustained by anything more than ex- 
ample, which, as a working basis must require 
reconstruction with every change of subject. 
Other forms of construction have been sifted 


down in a search for the governing principle, 
a substitution for the " rule and example." 

To the student and the amateur, therefore, it 
must be said this is not a "how-to-do" book. 
The number of these is legion, especially in 
painting, known to all students, wherein the 
matter is didactic and usually set forth with 
little or no argument. Such volumes are pub- 
lished because of the great demand and are de- 
manded because the student, in his haste, will 
not stop for principles, and think it out. He will 
have a rule for each case ; and when his direct 
question has been answered with a principle, he 
still inquires, " Well, what shall I do here ? " 

Why preach the golden rule of harmony as an 
abstraction, when inharmony is the concrete sin 
to be destroyed. We reach the former by elimi- 
nation. Whatever commandments this book con- 
tains, therefore, are the shalt nots. 

As the problems to the maker of pictures by 
photography are the same as those of the painter 
and the especial ambition of the former's art is 
to be painter-like, separations have been thought 
unnecessary in the address of the text. It is the 
best wish of the author that photography, fol- 
lowing painting in her essential principles as she 
does, may prove herself a well met companion 
along art's highway, seekers together, at arm's 
length, and in defined limits, of the same goal. 

The mention of artists' names has been limited, 
and a liberal allusion to many works avoided 
because to multiply them is both confusing and 



To the art lover this book may be found of 
interest as containing the reasons in picture com- 
position, and through them an aid to critical 
judgment. We adapt our education from quaint 
and curious sources. It is the apt correlation of 
the arts which accounts for the acknowledgment 
by an English story writer that she got her style 
from Kuskins' " Principles of Drawing " ; and of 
a landscape painter that to sculpture he owed 
his discernment of the forest secrets, by daily 
observing the long lines of statues in the corridor 
of the Koyal Academy ; or by the composer of 
pictures to the composer of music ; or by the 
preacher that suggestions to discourse had come 
to him through the pictorial processes of the 




THE poet-philosopher Emerson declared that 
he studied geology that he might better write 

For a moment the two elements of the propo- 
sition stand aghast and defiant ; but only for a 
moment. The poet, who from the top looks 
down upon the whole horizon of things can 
never use the tone of authority if his gaze be 
a surface one. He must know things in their 
depth in order that the glance may be suffi- 

The poet leaves his geology and botany, his 
grammar and rhetoric on the shelf when he 
makes his word picture. After he has expressed 
his thought however he may have occasion to 
call on the books of science, the grammar and 
rhetoric and these may very seriously interfere 
with the spontaneous product. So do the sen- 
tries posted on the boundary of the painter's art 
protect it from the liberties taken in the name of 

" The progressive element in our art," says the 

author of " The Law of Progress in Art," " is the 

scientific element. . . . Artists will not be 

any more famous for being scientific, but they are 



compelled to become scientific because they have 
embraced a profession which includes science. 
What I desire to enforce is the great truth that 
within the art of painting there exists, flourishes 
and advances a noble and glorious science which 
is essential and progressive." 

" Any one who can learn to write can learn to 
draw ; " and every one who can learn to draw 
should learn to compose pictures. That all do 
not is in evidence in the work of the many ac- 
complished draughtsmen who have delineated 
their ideas on canvas and paper from the time of 
the earliest masters to the present day, wherein 
the ability to produce the details of form is 
manifest in all parts of the work, but in the com- 
bination of those parts the first intention of their 
presence has lost force. 

Composition is the science of combination, and 
the art of the world has progressed as do the 
processes of the kindergarten. Artists first re- 
ceived form ; then color ; the materials, then the 
synthesis of the two. Notable examples of the 
world's great compositions may be pointed to in 
the work of the Renaissance painters, and such 
examples will be cited ; but the major portion of 
the art by which these exceptions were sur- 
rounded offers the same proportion of good to 
bad as the inverse ratio would to-day. 

Without turning to serious argument at this 
point, a superficial one, which will appeal to 
most art tourists, whether professional or lay, is 
found in the relief experienced in passing from 
the galleries of the old to those of the new art 


in Europe, in that one finds repose and expe- 
riences a relief of mental tension, discovering with 
the latter the balance of line, of mass and of 
color, and that general simplicity so necessary to 
harmony, which suggests that the weakness of 
the older art lay in the last of the three essentials 
of painting; form, color and composition. The 
low-toned harmonies of time-mellowed color we 
would be loath to exchange for aught else, ex- 
cept for that element of disturbance so vague and 
so difficult of definition, namely, lack of composi- 

In the single case of portrait composition of 
two figures (more difficult than of one, three or 
more) it is worthy of note how far beyond the 
older are the later masters; or in the case of 
the grouping of landscape elements, or in the 
arrangement of figures or animals in landscape, 
how a finer sense in such arrangement has come 
to art. Masterful composition of many figures 
however has never been surpassed in certain ex- 
amples of Michael Angelo, Rubens, Corregio and 
the great Venetians, yet while we laud the 
successes of these men we should not forget their 
lapses nor the errors in composition of their con- 

Those readers who have been brought up in 
the creed and catechism of the old masters, and 
swallowed them whole, with no questions, I beg 
will lay aside traditional prejudice, and regard- 
ing every work with reference to neither name 
nor date, challenge it only with the countersign 
"good composition." This will require an un- 


sentimental view, which need not and should not 
be an unsympathetic one, but which would bare 
the subject of that which overzealous devotion 
has bestowed upon it, a compound accumulation 
of centuries. 

The most serious work yet written on com- 
position, Burnet's " Light and Shade," was penned 
at a time when the influence of old masters held 
undisputed sway. The thought of that day in 
syllogism would run as follows : The work of the 
Old Masters in its composition is beyond re- 
proach. Botticelli, Kaphael, Paul Potter, Wou- 
vermans, Cuyp, Domenichino, Diirer, Teniers et 
al., are Old Masters. Therefore, we accept their 
works as models of good composition, to be fol- 
lowed for all ages. And under such a creed a 
work valuable from many points of view has 
been crippled by its free use of models, which in 
some cases compromise the arguments of the 
author, and in others, if used by artists of the 
present day, would only serve to administer a re- 
buke to their simple trust, in that practical man- 
ner known to juries, hanging committees and 

The slight advance made in the field of paint- 
ing during the past three centuries has come 
through this channel, and strange would it seem 
if the striving of this long period should show no 
improvement in any direction. 

Composition is the mortar of the wall, as 

drawing and color are its rocks of defence. 

Without it the stones are of little value, and are 

but separate integrals having no unity. If the 



reader agrees with this, then he agrees to throw 
out of the category of the picture all pictorial 
representations which show no composition. 
This classification eliminates most of the illus- 
trations of scientific work ; such illustrations as 
aim only at facts of incident, space or topography, 
photographic reproductions of groups wherein 
each individual is shown to be quite as important 
as every other, and which, therefore, become a 
collection of separate pictures, and such illus- 
trations as are frequently met with in the daily 
papers, where opportunities for picture-making 
have been diverted to show where the victim 
fell, and where the murderer escaped, or where 
the man drowned usually designated by a star. 
These are not pictures, but perspective maps to 
locate events. Besides these, in the field of 
painting, are to be found now and then products 
of an artist's skill which, though interesting in 
technique and color, give little pleasure to a 
well-balanced mind, destitute as they are of 
the simple principles which govern the uni- 
verse of matter. Take from nature the princi- 
ples of balance, and you deprive it of har- 
mony ; take from it harmony and you have 

A picture may have as its component parts a 
man, a horse, a tree, a fence, a road and a moun- 
tain ; but these thrown together upon canvas do 
not make a picture ; and not, indeed, until they 
have been arranged or composed. 

The argument, therefore, is that without com- 
position, there can be no picture ; that the com- 


position of pictorial units into a whole is the 

Simple as its principles are, it is amazing, one 
might almost say amusing, to note how easily 
they eluded many artists of the earlier periods, 
whose work technically is valuable, and how the 
new school of Impressionism or Naturalism has 
assumed their non-importance. That all Impres- 
sionists do not agree with the following is evi- 
denced by the good that comes to us with their 
mark, " Opposed to the miserable law of compo- 
sition, symmetry, balance, arrangement of parts, 
filling of space, as though Nature herself does not 
do that ten thousand times better in her own 
pretty way." The assertion that composition is 
a part of Nature's law, that it is done by her 
and well done we are glad to hear in the same 
breath of invective that seeks to annihilate it. 
When, under this curse we take from our picture 
one by one the elements on which it is builded, 
the result we would be able to present without 
offence to the author of " Naturalistic Painting," 
Mr. Francis Bate. 

" The artist," says Mr. Whistler, " is born to 
pick, and choose, and group with science these 
elements, that the result may be beautiful as 
the musician gathers his notes and forms his 
chords until he brings forth from chaos glorious 
harmony. To say to the painter that Nature is 
to be taken as she is, is to say to the player that 
he may sit on the piano. That Nature is always 
right is an assertion artistically, as untrue as it 
is one whose truth is universally taken for 



granted. Nature is very rarely right to such an 
extent, even, that it might almost be said that 
Nature is usually wrong ; that is to say, the con- 
dition of things that shall bring about the per- 
fection of harmony worthy a picture is rare, and 
not common at all." 

Between the life class, with its model standing 
in academic pose and the pictured scene in which 
the model becomes a factor in the expression of 
an idea, there is a great gulf fixed. The precept 
of the ateliers is paint the figure ; if you can do 
that, you can paint anything. 

Influenced by this half truth many a student, 
with years of patient life school training behind 
him, has sought to enter the picture-making 
stage with a single step. He then discovers that 
what he had learned to do cleverly by means of 
routine practice, was in reality the easiest thing 
to do in the manufacture of a picture, and that 
sterner difficulties awaited him in his settlement 
of the figure into its surroundings background 
and foreground. 1 

Many portrait painters assert that it is the set- 
ting of the subject which gives them the most 
trouble. The portraitist deals with but a 
single figure, yet this, in combination with its 
scanty support, provokes this well-known com- 

The lay community cannot understand this. 

1 " I gave up art," said a student who had spent seven years 
in foreign ateliers, "not because I could not paint, but be- 
cause I was never taught to make use of what I knew. 



It seems illogical. It can only be comprehended 
by him who paints. 

The figure is tangible and represents the 
known. The background is a space opened into 
the unknown, a place for the expressions of 
fancy. It is the tone quality accompanying the 
song, the subject's reliance for balance and con- 
trast. An inquiry into the statement that the 
accessories of the subject demand a higher degree 
of artistic skill than the painting of the subject 
itself, and that on these accessories depend the 
carrying power of the subject, leads directly 
to the principles of composition. 

" It must of necessity be," says Sir Joshua 
Eeynolds, " that even works of genius, like every 
other effect, as they must have their cause, must 
also have their rules; it cannot be by chance 
that excellencies are produced with any con- 
stancy or any certainty, for this is not the nature 
of chance ; but the rules by which men of extra- 
ordinary parts, and such as are called men of 
genius, work, are either such as they discover by 
their own peculiar observations, or of such a nice 
texture as not easily to admit being expressed in 
words, especially as artists are not very fre- 
quently skillful in that mode of communicating 
ideas. Unsubstantial, however, as these rules 
may seem, and difficult as it may be to convey 
them in writing, they are still seen and felt in 
the mind of the artist ; and he works from them 
with as much certainty as if they were embodied 
upon paper. It is true these refined principles 
cannot always be made palpable, as the more 



gross rules of art; yet it does not follow but 
that the mind may be put in such a train that it 
still perceives by a kind of scientific sense that 
propriety which words, particularly words of 
impractical writers, such as we are, can but very 
feebly suggest." 

Science has to do wholly with truth, Art with 
both truth and beauty ; but in arranging a pre- 
cedence she puts beauty first. 

Our regard for the science of composition is 
acknowledged when, after having enjoyed the 
painter's work from the art side alone, the 
science of its structure begins to appear. In- 
stead of the concealment of art by art it is the 
suppression of the science end of art that takes 
our cunning. 

" The picture which looks most like nature to 
the uninitiated," says a clever writer, "will 
probably show the most attention to the rules of 
the artist." 

Ten years ago the writer took part in an after- 
dinner discussion at the American Art Associa- 
tion of Paris over the expression " the rules of 
composition." A number of artists joined in the 
debate, all giving their opinion without premedi- 
tation. Some maintained that the principles of 
composition were nothing more than aesthetic 
taste and judgment, applied by a painter of ex- 

Others, with less beggary of the question, 

affirmed that the principles were negative rather 

than positive. They warned the artist rather 

than instructed him ; and, if rules were to fol- 



low principles, they were rules concerning what 
should not be done. The epitome of the debate 
was that composition was like salt, in the defini- 
tion of the small boy, who declared that salt is 
what makes things taste bad when you don't put 
any on. 

The Classic Scales equal 
weights on even arms, the 
controlling idea of decora- 
tive composition. 

A later notion of balance 
the Steelyard, a small 
weight on the long arm of 
the fulcrum, admitting 
great range in the place- 
ment of balancing meas- 

The Scales or Steelyard 
in perspective, developing 
the notion of balance 
through the depth] of a 
picture discoverable over 
a fulcrum or neutral space. 





OF all pictorial principles none compares in 
importance with Unity or Balance. 

" Why all this intense striving, this struggle to 
a finish," said George Inness, as, at the end of a 
long day, he flung himself exhausted upon his 
lounge, " but an effort to obtain unity, unity." 

The observer of an artist at work will notice 
that he usually stands at his easel and views his 
picture at varied distances, that he looks at it 
over his shoulder, that he reverses it in a mirror, 
that he turns it upside down at times, that he 
develops it with dots or spots of color here and 
there, points of accent carefully placed and oft- 
times changed. 

What is the meaning of this thoughtful weigh- 
ing of parts in the slowly-growing mosaic, but 
that he labors under the restraint of a law which 
he feels compelled to obey and the breaking of 
which would cause anguish to his aesthetic sense. 
The law under which his striving proceeds is the 
fundamental one of balance, and the critical 
artist obeys it whether he be the maker of 
vignettes for a newspaper, or the painter who 
declares for color only, or the man who tries 
hard to produce naivete by discarding composi- 
tion. The test to which the sensitive eye sub- 


jects every picture from whatsoever creed OP 
camp it comes is balance or equipoise, judgment 
being rendered without thought of the law. 
After the picture has been left as finished, why 
does an artist often feel impelled to create an 
accent on this side or weaken an obtrusive one 
on the other side of his canvas if not working 
under a law of balance ? 

Let any picture be taken which has lived long 
enough before the public to be considered good 
by every one ; or take a dozen or more such and 
add others by artists who declare against com- 
position and yet have produced good pictures; 
subject all these to the following simple test: 
Find the actual centre of the picture and pass a 
vertical and horizontal line through it. The ver- 
tical division is the more important, as the nat- 
ural balance is on the lateral sides of a central sup- 
port. It will be found that the actual centre of 
the canvas is also the actual pivot or centre of 
the picture, and around such a point the various 
components group themselves, pulling and haul- 
ing and warring in their claim for attention, the 
satisfactory picture showing as much design of 
balance on one side of the centre as the other, 
and the picture complete in balance displaying 
this equipoise above and below the horizontal line. 

Now, in order that what seems at first glance 
an exclusive statement may be understood, the 
reader should realize that every item of a pic- 
ture has a certain pulling power, as though 
each object were a magnet of given potency. 
Each has attraction for the eye, therefore each, 


while obtaining attention for itself, establishes 
proportional detraction for every other part. 
On the principle of the steelyard, the farther 
from the centre and more isolated an object is, 
the greater its weight or attraction. Therefore, 
in the balance of a picture it will be found that a 
very important object placed but a short distance 
from the centre may be balanced by a very small 
object on the other side of the centre and 
further removed from, it. The whole of the pic- 
torial interest may be on one side of a picture 
and the other side be practically useless as far as 
picturesqueness or story-telling opportunity is 
concerned, but which finds its reason for existing 
in the 'balance, and that alone. 

In the emptiness of the opposing half such a 
picture, when completely in balance, will have 
some bit of detail or accent which the eye in its 
circular symmetrical inspection will catch, un- 
consciously, and weave into its calculation of 
balance ; or if not an object or accent or line of 
attraction, then some technical quality, or spirit- 
ual quality, such, for example, as a strong feeling 
of gloom, or depth for penetration, light or dark, 
a place in fact, for the eye to dwell upon as an 
important part in connection with the subject 
proper, and recognized as such. 

But, the querist demands, if all the subject is 
on one side of the centre and the other side de- 
pends for its existence on a balancing space or 
accent only, why not cut it off ? Do so. Then 
you will have the entire subject in one-half the 
space to be sure, but its harmony or balance will 


depend on the equipoise when pivoted in the 
new centre. 


Let the reader make the test upon the " Con- 
noisseurs " l and cut away everything on the right 
beyond a line through the farther support of the 
mantel. This will place the statue in the exact 
centre. In this shape the picture composes well. 
In re-adding this space however the centre is 
shifted leaving the statue and two figures hang- 
ing to one side but close to the pivot and demand- 
ing more balance in this added side. Now the 
space alone, with very little in it, has weight 
enough, and just here the over-scientific enthusi- 
ast might err ; but the artist in this case from 
two other considerations has here placed a figure. 
It opposes its vertical to the horizontal of the 
table, and catches and turns the line of the 
shadow on the wall into the line of the rug. An 
extended search in pictorial art gives warrant for 
a rule, upon this principle, namely: where the 
subject is on one side of the centre it must exist 
close to the centre, or, in that degree in which it 
departs from the centre, show positive anchorage 
to the other side. 

It is not maintained that every good picture 
can show this complete balance ; but the claim is 
made that the striving on the part of its designer 
has been in the direction of this balance, and 
that, had it been secured, the picture would have 
been that much better. Let this simple test be 
applied by elimination of overweighted parts or 

1 Page 32. 


addition of items where needed, on this principle, 
and it will be found that the composition will 
always improve. As a necessary caution it 
should be observed that the small balancing 
weight of the steelyard should not become a 
point causing divided interest. 

It is easy to recognize a good composition ; to 
tell why it is good may be difficult ; to tell how 
it could be made better is what the art worker 
desires to know. Let the student when in doubt 
weight out his picture in the balances mindful 
that the principle of the steelyards covers the 
items in the depth as well as across the breadth 
of the picture. 


Every picture is a collection of units or items. 

Every unit has a given value. 

The value of a unit depends on its attraction ; 
its attraction varies as to its placement. 

ATI isolated unit near the edge has more attrac- 
tion than at the centre. 

Every part of the picture space has some at- 

Space having no detail may possess attraction 
by gradation and by association. 

A unit of attraction in an otherwise empty 
space has more weight through isolation than 
the same when placed with other units. 

A black unit on white or a white on black has 
more attraction than the same on gray. 

The value of a black or white unit is propor- 
tioned to the size of space contrasting with it. 


A unit in the foreground has less weight than 
one in the distance. 

Two or more associated units may be reckoned 
as one and their united centre is the point on 
which they balance with others. 

There is balance of Line, 1 of Mass, 2 of Light 
and Dark, 3 of Measure, 4 which is secured upon a 
scale of attraction which each possesses. Many 
pictures exhibit these in combination. 

The " Lion of the Desert," by Gerome shows 
three isolated spots and one line of attraction. 
The trend of vision on leaving the lion is to the 
extreme right and thence back along the path- 
way of the dark distance into the picture to the 
group of trees. Across this is an oppositional 
balance from the bushes of the foreground to the 
mountains of the extreme distance. The only 
line in the composition, better seen in the paint- 
ing than in the reproduction, counts much in the 
balance over the centre. The placement of the 
important item or subject, has little to do with 
the balance scheme of a picture. This is the 
starting point, and balance is a consideration be- 
yond this. 

In every composition the eye should cross the 
central division at least once. This initiates 
equipoise, for in the survey of a picture the eye 
naturally shifts from the centre of interest, which 
may be on one side, to the other side of the can- 
vas. If there be something there to receive it, 
the balance it seeks is gratified. If it finds noth- 

1 Bacchus, page 92; " Alone," page 111. 

2 Claude Lorraine's landscapes, page 161. 

3 "Mother's Child," page 127; "The Lovers, " page 147. 

4 "The Salute," page 31; " Path of the Surf," page 85. 



Italance of Isolated Mensurcs 

Balance of Equal Measure* 


Balance of the Steelyards 


ing, the artist must create something, with the 
conclusion that some element of the picture was 

In the snow-scene the eye is attracted from the 
pine-trees to the houses on the left and rests there, 
no attraction having been created to move it to 
the other half of the picture. 

What is known as divided interest in a picture 
is nothing more than the doubt established by a 
false arrangement of balance, too great an at- 
traction being used where less weight was 
needed. The artist must be the judge of the 
degree of satisfaction he allows this feeling, but 
no one can ignore it and obtain unity. 

The question of degree must have a caution 
placed before it ; for in an attempt to create a 
balance on the opposite side of the vertical the 
tendency is to use too heavy a weight. The 
whole of the subject is sometimes made to take 
its place well on one side and another item would 
seem redundant. Two points will be noticed in 
all of such cases : that the opposing half may 
either be cut off without damage, or greatly 
elongated, and in both forms the picture seems 
to survive. 1 The fact becomes an argument for 
the theory of balance across a medial upright 
line; in the first instance by shifting the line 
itself into the centre of the subject, and in the 
second by securing more weight of space with 
which to balance the subject. 

The portrait of Sarah Bernhardt, 2 an excellent 
composition from many points of view, finds its 
most apparent balance on either side of the sinu- 

1 Page 43. 2 Page 37. 



ous line of light through the centre exhibiting 
the axis, which many pictures show in varying de- 
grees. The opposing corners are well balanced, 
the plant over against the dog, with a trifle too 
much importance left to the dog. Place the finger 
in observation over the head and forelegs of the 
dog, taking this much off and the whole compo- 
sition gains, not only because the diagonal cor- 
ners then balance, but because the heads of both 
woman and dog are too important for the same 
side of the picture. 

It would be perfectly possible in the more com- 
plete composition to have both heads as they are, 
but this would demand more weight on the other 
side; or a shifting of the whole picture very 
slightly toward the left side. 

In the painting this is not felt, as the head of 
the dog is so treated that it attracts but little, 
though the object be in the close foreground. 

This picture also balances on the horizontal 
and vertical lines. 

Here we have the dog and fan balancing the 
body and plant. The balance across the diagonal 
of the figure, by the opposition of the dog with 
the plant is very complete. Joined with the 
hanging lamp above, this sinuous line effects a 
letter S or without the dog and leaf Hogarth's 
line of beauty. 

In the matter also of the weakening of the 
necessary foundation lines which support the 
figure (the sofa), and cut the picture in two, this 
curving figure, the pillow and the large leaf do 
excellent service. 



"When one fills a vase with flowers he aims at 
both unity and balance, and if, in either color 
combination, or in massing and accent, it lacks 
this, the result is disturbing. Let the vase be- 
come a bowl and let the bowl be placed on its 
edge and made to resemble a frame, entirely sur- 
rounding the bouquet ; his effort remains the 
same. To be effective in a frame, balance and 
unity are just as necessary. The eye finds repose 
and delight in the perfect equipoise of elements, 
brought into combination and bound together by 
the girdle of the frame. ~ v 

A picture should be able to hang from its exact 
centre. Imperfect composition inflicts upon the 
beholder the duty of accommodating his head to 
the false angle of the picture. Pictures that 
stand the test of time do not demand astigmatic 
glasses. We view them balanced, and they re- 
peat the countersign " balanced.'' 1 

After settling upon this as the great consider- 
ation in the subject of composition and reducing 
the principle to the above law, I confess I had 
not the full courage of my conviction for a six 
month, for now and then a picture would appear 
that at first glance seemed like an unruly colt, to 
refuse to be harnessed to the theory and was in 
danger of kicking it to pieces. After a number 
of such apparent exceptions and the ease with 
which they submitted to the test of absolute bal- 
ance from the centre, on the scheme of the steel- 
yards, I am now entirely convinced that what 
writers have termed the " very vague subject of 
composition," " the perplexing question of ar- 


rangement of parts," etc., yields to this simplest 
law, and which, in its directness and clearness, 
affords the simplest of working rules. Those 
whose artistic freedom bids defiance to the 
slavery of rule, as applied to an artistic prod- 
uct, and who try to produce something that 
shall break all rules, in the hope of being origi- 
nal, spend the greater part of the time in but 
covering the surface so that the principle may 
not be too easily seen, and the rest of the time in 
balancing the unbalanced. 

As the balance of the figure dominates all 
other considerations in the statue or painting of 
the human form, so does the equipoise of the pic- 
ture, or its balance of parts, become the chief 
consideration in its composition. The figure bal- 
ances its weight over the point of support, as the 
flying Mercury on his toes, the picture upon a 
fulcrum on which large and small masses hang 
with the same delicate adjustment. In Fortuny's 
" Connoisseurs," ! the two men looking at a pic- 
ture close to the left of the centre form the sub- 
ject. The dark mass behind them stops off further 
penetration in this direction, but the eye is drawn 
away into the light on the right and seeks the man 
carrying a portfolio. At his distance, together 
with the lighted objects he easily balances the 
important group on the other side of the centre. 
Indeed, with the attractiveness of the clock, vase, 
plaque, mantel and chest, his face would have 
added a grain too much, and this the artist happily 
avoided by covering it with the portfolio. 

1 Page 32. 

Balance Ac-oss the Natural Axis 

LADY WITH MUFF Photo A. Hezvitt 
Steelyard in Perspective 


In the portrait study of " Lady with Muff," 
one first receives the impression that the figure 
has been carelessly placed and, indeed, it would 
go for a one-sided and thoughtless arrangement 
but for the little item, almost lost in shadow, on 
the left side. This bit of detail enables the eye 
to penetrate the heavy shadow, and is a good 
example of the value of the small weight on 
the long arm of the steelyard, which balances its 
opposing heavy weight. 

This picture is trimmed a little too much on the 
top to balance across the horizontal line, and, in- 
deed, this balance is the least important, and, in 
some cases, not desirable ; but the line of light fol- 
lowing down from the face and across the muff 
and into the lap not only assists this balance, but 
carries the eye into the left half, and for that 
reason is very valuable in the lateral balance, 
which is all important to the upright subject. 

One other consideration regarding this picture, 
in the matter of balance, contains a principle : 
The line of the figure curves in toward the flower 
and pot which become the radius of the whole 
inner contour. This creates an elliptical line of 
observation, which being the arc on this radius 
receives a pull toward its centre. There is a 
modicum of balance in the mere weight of this 
empty space, but when given force by its isola- 
tion, plus the concession to its centripetal sig- 
nificance, the small item does great service in 
settling the equilibrium of the picture. The 
lines are precisely those of the Rubens recently 
added to the Metropolitan Museum, wherein the 


figures of Mary, her mother, Christ and John 
form the arc and the bending form of the monk 
its oppositional balance. 

In proof of the fact that the half balance, or 
that on either side of the vertical is sufficient in 
many subjects, see such portraits in which the 
head alone is attractive, the rest being suppressed 
in detail and light, for the sake of this attraction. 

It is rarely that figure art deals with balance 
over the horizontal central line in conjunction 
with balance over the vertical. 

One may recall photographs of figures in 
which the positions on the field of the plate are 
very much to one side of the centre, but which 
have the qualifying element in leading line or 
balance by an isolated measure that brings them 
within the requirements of unity. The " Brother 
and Sister " * by Miss Kasebier the boy in sailor 
cap crowding up to the face and form of his 
younger sister, owes much to the long, strongly- 
relieved line of the boy's side and leg which draws 
the weight to the opposite side of the picture. In 
imagination we may see the leg below the knee 
and know how far on the opposite side of the cen- 
tral vertical his point of support really is. The 
movement in both figures originates from this 
side of the picture as the lines of the drapery 
show. Deprive such a composition of its balan- 
cing line and instead of a picture we would have 
but two figures on one side of a plate. 

'See "The Pose in Portraiture," well-known to photogra- 
phers and well worthy the attention of painters. Tennant & 
Ward, N. Y. 




The significance of the horizontal balance is 
best understood in landscape, with its extended 
perspective. Here the idea becomes reminiscent 
of our childhood's " teeter." Conceiving a long 
space from foreground to distance, occupied with 
varied degrees of interest, it is apparent how 
easily one end may become too heavy for the 
other. The tempering of such a chain of items 
until the equipoise is attained must be coordinate 
with the effort toward the lateral balance. 


In the " Salute to the Wounded," l by Detaille, 
complete and formal balance on both the vertical 
and horizontal line is shown. The chief of staff 
is on one side of centre, balanced by the officer on 
the other, and the remaining members of staff 
balance the German infantry. Although the 
heads of prisoners are all above the horizontal 
line, three-fourths of the body comes below a 
just equivalent and, in the case of the horse- 
men, the legs and bodies of the horses draw down 
the balance toward the bottom, of the canvas, 
specially aided by the two cuirassiers in the left 
corner. In addition to this, note the value of 
the placement of the gray horse and rider at left, 
as a means of interrupting the necessary and ob- 
jectionable line of feet across the canvas and 
leading the eye into the picture and toward the 
focus, both by the curve to the left, including the 
black horse, and also by the direct jump across 

1 See page 31. 



the picture, through the white horse and toward 
the real subject i. e., the prisoners. 

Much has been written by way of suggestion 
in composition dealing with this picture or that 
to illustrate a thought which might have been 
simplified over the single idea of balance which 
contains the whole secret and which if once 
understood in all of its phases of possible change 
will establish procedure with a surety indeed 
gratifying to him who halts questioning the next 
step, or not knowing positively that the one he 
has taken is correct. 

These criticisms vaguely named " confusion," 
" stiffness," " scattered quantity," etc., all lead in to 
the root, unbalance, and are to be corrected there. 

Balance is of importance according to the 
number of units to be composed. Much greater 
license may be taken in settling a single figure 
into its picture-space than when the cpmposition 
involves many. In fact the mind pays little 
heed to the consideration of balance until a com- 
plication of many units forces the necessity upon 
it. The painter who esteems lightly the subject 
of composition is usually found to be the painter 
of simple subjects portraits and non-discursive 
themes, but though these may survive in antag- 
onism to such principles their authors are de- 
manding more from the technical quality of their 
work than is its mission to supply. 

The first two main lines, if they touch or 
cross, start a composition. After that it is neces- 
sary to work upon the picture as it hangs in the 



The inutility of considering composition in 
outline or in solid mass of tone as a safe first 
analysis of finished work is evident when we dis- 
cover that not until we have brought the picture 
to the last stage of detail finish do we fully en- 
compass balance. The conception which looks 
acceptable to one's general idea in outline may 
finish all askew; or the scheme of Light and 

Dark in one or two flat tones minus the balance 
of gradation will prove false as many times as 
faithful, as it draws toward completion. It is be- 
cause of this that artists when composing roughly 
in the presence of nature seldom if ever produce 
note-book sketches which lack the unity of grada- 
tion. It is the custom of some artists to paint im- 
portant pictures from such data which, put down 
hot when the impression is compulsory, contain 


more of the essence of the subject than the faith- 
ful " study " done at leisure. 

The possibilities of balanced arrangement be- 
ing so extensive, susceptible in fact of the most 
eccentric and fantastic composition, it follows 
that its adaptability to all forms of presentation 
disarms argument against it. In almost every 
case, when the work of an accomplished painter 
fails to convince, through that completeness 
which of all qualities stands first, when, after 
the last word has been said by him, when na- 
ture, in short, has been satisfied and the work 
still continues in its feeble state of insurrection, 
which many artists will confess it frequently re- 
quires years to quell, it is sure proof that way 
back in the early construction of such a picture 
some element of unbalance had been allowed. 


In varying degrees pictures express what may 
be termed a natural axis, on which their com- 
ponents arrange themselves in balanced compo- 
sition. This axis is the visible or imaginary line 
which the eye accepts connecting the two most 
prominent measures or such a line which first ar- 
rests the attention. If there be but one figure, 
group or measure, and there be an opening or 
point of attraction through the background di- 
verting the vision from such to it, then this line 
of direction becomes the axis. The axis does 
not merely connect two points within the pic- 
ture, but pierces it, and the near end of the shaft 
has much to do with this balance. 

Balance across the centre effects the unity of 
the picture in its limitations with its frame. 
Balance on the axis expresses the natural 
balance of the subject as we feel it in nature 
when it touches us personally and would connect 
our spirit with its own. 

We discern the former more readily where the 
subject confronts us with little depth of back- 
ground. We get into the movement of the latter 
when the reach is far in, and we feel the subject 
revolving on its pivot and stretching one arm 
toward us while the other penetrates the vis- 
ible or the unknown distance. 

Balance constructed over this line will bring 
the worker to as unified a result as the use of the 
steelyard on the central vertical line. 

In this method there is less restraint and when 
the axis is well marked it is best to take it. Not 
every subject develops it however. It is easily 
felt in Clairin's portrait of Sarah Bernhardt, 1 the 
"Lady with Muff," 2 "The Path of the Surf," s 
and in the line of the horse, Indian, and sunset. 4 
When the axis is found, its force should be modi- 
fied by opposed lines or measures, on one or both 
sides. In these four examples good composition 
has been effected in proportion as such balance is 
indicated ; in the first by dog and palm, in the 
second by flower-pot, in the third by the light on 
the stubble and cloud in left hand corner, and in 
the last by the rocks and open sea. 

A further search among the accompanying 
illustrations would reveal it in the sweeping line 

'Page 37. s Page 38. 3 Page 85. 4 Page 53. 



of cuirassiers, 1 balanced by the group about Napo- 
leon, the line of the hulk and the light of the sky 
in " Her Last Moorings," 2 the central curved line 
in "TJbe body of Patroclus" 1 the diagonal line 
through the arm of Ariadne 3 into the forearm of 


Raphael is a covenient point at which to com- 
mence a study of composition. His style was 
influenced by three considerations : warning by 
the pitfalls of composition into which his pred- 
ecessors had fallen; confidence that the abso- 
lutely formal balance was safe ; and lack of ex- 
perience to know that anything else was as 
good. To these may be added the environment 
for which most of his works were produced. His 
was an architectural plan of arrangement, and 
this well suited both the dignity of his subject 
and the chaste conceptions of a well poised mind. 

Raphael, therefore, stands as the chief expo- 
nent of the formal composition. His plan was to 
place the figure of greatest importance in the 
centre. This should have its support in balan- 
cing figures on either side ; an attempt then, often 
observable was to weaken this set formality by 
other objects wherein, though measure responded 
to measure, there was a slight change in kind or 
degree, the whole arrangement resembling that 
of an army in battle array ; with its centre, 
flanks and skirmishers. The balance of equal 
measures seen in his " Sistine Madonna," is con- 
spicuous in most ecclesiastical pictures of that 

1 Page 99. 8 Page 59. 3 Page 92. 



period, notably the " Last Supper of Leonardo " in 
which two groups of three persons each are posed 
on either side of the pivotal figure. 

This has become the standard arrangement for 
all classical balanced composition in pictorial 
decoration. The doubling of objects on either 
side of a central figure not only gives to it im- 
portance, but contributes to the composition that 
quietude, symmetry and solemnity so compatible 
with religious feeling or decorative requirement. 
The objection to this plan of balance is that it 
divides the picture into equal parts, neither one 
having precedence, and the subdivisions may be 
continued indefinitely. For this reason it has no 
place in genre art. Its antiphonal responses be- 
long to the temple. A more objectionable form 
of balance on the centre is that in which the 
centre is of small importance. This cuts the 
picture into halves without reason. The " Dutch 
Peasants on the Shore, 1 low tide," and "The 
Poulterers," 2 and David's " Rape of the Sabine 
"Women," are examples. 

These pictures present three degrees of formal 
balance. In the first a lack of sequence impairs 
the picture's unity. In the second, though the 
objects are contiguous there is no subjective 
union, and in David's composition the formality 
of the decorative structure is inapplicable to the 

The circular group of Dagnan-Bouveret's 
"Pardon in Brittany," where the peasants are 
squatted on the left in the foreground is a daring 
bit of balance, finding its justification in the 

1 Page 105. * Page 147. 



movement of interest toward the right in the 

In all forms, save the classic decoration it 
should be the artist's effort to conceal the balance 
over the centre. 

In avoiding the equal divisions of the picture 
plane a practical plan of construction is based 
upon the strong points as opposed to the weak 
ones. It assumes that the weak point is the 

centre, and that in all types of composition where 
formality is not desired the centre is to be 
avoided. Any points equi-distant from any two 
sides are also weak points. The inequalities in 
distance should bear a mathematical ratio to each 
other as one and two-thirds, two and three-fifths. 
These points will be strongest and best adapted 
for the placement of objects which are distant 
from the boundary lines and the corners, in de- 
grees most varied. 



If we take a canvas of ordinary proportion, 
namely, one whose length is equal to the hy- 
pothenuse on the square of its breadth, as 28x36 
or 18x24: and divide it into unequal divisions as 
three, five or seven, we will produce points on 
which good composition will result. 

The reason for this is that the remaining two- 
thirds becomes a unit as has the one-third. If 
the larger is given the precedence it carries the 
interest; if not it must be sacrificed to the 
smaller division. On this principle it may be 
seen that a figure could occupy a position in the 
centre if it tied itself in a positive way to that 
division which carried the remainder of the inter- 
est thus becoming unobjectionable as an element 
dividing the picture into equal parts. 

The formula is always productive of excellent 
results. (See Howard's " Sketcher's Manual.") 

This proportional division of the picture one 
may find in the best of Claude Lorraine's land- 
scapes, with him a favorite method of construc- 
tion. It suggests the pillars and span for a sus- 
pension trestle. When, as is invariably seen in 
Claude's works the nearest one is in shadow, the 
vision is projected from this through the space 
intervening to the distant and more attractive 
one. A feeling of great depth is inseparable 
from this arrangement. 

A series of oppositional lines has more variety 
and is therefore more picturesque than the tan- 
gent its equivalent. The simplest definition of 


picturesqueness is variety in unity. The lines of 
the long road in perspective offer easy conduct 
for the eye, but it finds a greater interest in 
threading its way over a track lost, then found, 
lost and found again. In time we as surely 
arrive from a, to z by one route as by the other, 
but in one the journey has had the greater in- 

Imagine a hillside and sky offered as a picture. 
The hillside is without detail, the sky a blank. 
The first item introduced attracts the eye, the 
second and third are joined with the first. If 
they parallel the line of the hillside they do 
nothing toward the development of the picture 
but rather harm by introducing an element of 
monotony. If, however, they are so placed in 
sky and land as to accomplish opposition to this 
line they help to send the eye on its travels. 

No better example of this principle can be cited 
than Mr. Alfred Steiglitz's pictorial photograph 
of two Dutch women on the shore. The lines 
of ropes through the foreground connect with 
others in the middle distance leading tangentially 
to the house beyond. 

To one who fences or has used the broad 
sword a feeling for oppositional line should come 
as second nature. A long sweeping stroke must 
be parried or opposed frankly ; the riposte must 
also be parried. A bout is a picturesque compo- 
sition of two men and two minds in which unity 
of the whole and of the parts is preserved by the 
balance of opposed measures. The analogy is 
appropriate. The artist stands off brush in hand 


and fights his subject to a finish, the force of one 
stroke neutralizing and parrying another. This 
is as true of linear as color composition, where 
the scheme is one producing harmony by oppo- 
sition of colors. 

In the photograph of the Indian and horse we 
have a subject full of fine quality. (See page 53.) 
The demonstration occurs in the sky at just the 
right place to serve as a balance for the heavy 
measures of the foreground and the interest is 
drawn back into the picture and to the upper left 
hand corner by the two cloud forms, over which is 
sharply thrown a barricade of cloud which turns 

the vision back into the picture. The simplicity of 
the three broad tones is appropriate to the senti- 
ment of vastness which the picture contains. 
The figure seated in revery before this expanse 
supplies the mental element to the subject, the 
antithesis of which is the interest of the horse, 
earthward. Each one has his way, and in the 
choice by each is the definition of man and brute, 
a separation which the pose of each figure indi- 
cates through physical disunion. The space be- 
tween them widens upon the horizon line. To 
establish the necessary pictorial connection or at 
least a hint of it suggests three devices. A lariat 
in a curving line might be slightly indicated 


through the grass : the foreground might be cut 
so as to limit the range toward us ; or a broken 
line may be constructed diagonally from the 
horse's left foot by a few accents in the light of 
the stubble. In the first, the union is effected 
by transition of line ; in the last by opposition of 
the spot of the figure to the line of the horse's 
shoulder and leg extended by a line through the 
grass. Opposition is always stronger in propor- 
tion as the spot opposes the centre of the line. 
For that reason were the figure raised it would 
have been better placed for such opposition, as 
well as effecting transition of line with the hori- 
zon with which it now effects the less potent 
quality of opposition. 

Spots or accents are in the majority of cases 
equivalent to a line. The eye follows the line 
more easily, but the spot is a potent force of at- 
traction and we take the artist's hint in his use 
of it, often finding that its subtlety is worth 
more than the line's strength. In the case of a 
simple hillside back-stopped by a dense mass of 
trees, a flat and an upright plane are presented, 
but until the vision is carried into and beyond 
the line of juncture the opposition of mere planes 
accomplishes little, the only thing thus estab- 
lished being a strong effect of light and shade 
and not until the eye is coaxed into the sky so 
that there be established a union between the 
pathway or other object on the hill and the 
distance, will balance by transition be effected. 
[ 52 ] 

Opposition of Light and Dark Measures 

THE CABARET L. L'hennittc 
Opposition Plus Transition 

ALONG THE SHORE Photo by George Butler 
Transitional Line 

PATHLESS Photo by A. Horsley Hinton 
Transitional Line 


This is one of the subtlest and most necessary 
principles in landscape composition. The illus 
tration herewith is of the simplest nature but the 
principle may be expanded indefinitely as it has 
to do both with lateral and perspective balance. 

In the " Death of Caesar," l the perspective line 
of the statues and the opposite curve in the floor 
are continued through the opposing mass of col- 
umns and wall to the court beyond, a positive 
control of the distance by the foreground, being 
thus secured. 


More effective than opposition, as the cross bar 
is more effective for strength than the bar sup- 
ported on only one side, is Transition, or the 
same item carried across, or delivered to another 
item which shall cross a line or space. 

In the group of peasants in the Cabaret 2 note 
the use of lines of opposition and transition, in 
the single figures and when taken in twos. The 
laborer (with shovel) in his upper and lower ex- 
tremities exhibits a large cross which becomes 
larger when we add the table on which his ex- 
tended arm rests and the figure standing behind 
him. The ascent of this vertical is stopped by 
the line of the mantel and then continued by the 
plate and picture. So in minor parts of this 
group one may think out the rugged energy of 
its composition, nor anywhere discover a single 
curved or flowing line. Nor does it require an 
experienced eye to note the pyramidal structure 
of the various parts. In the action of the heads 

1 Page 176. 2 Page 53. 



and bodies of the two central figures is another 
strong example of oppositional arrangement. 
The heavily braced table is typical of the whole. 

In landscape the transitional line from land 
into sky is often impossible and objectionable. 
The sentiment of the subject may deny any at- 
tempt at this union. Here the principle only ? 
should be hinted at. In the case of a sunset sky 
where the clouds float as parallel bars above the 
horizon and thus show the character of a quiet 
and windless closing of day, a transitional line 
such as a tree, mast or spire may be unavailable. 
Oppositional spots or lines attracting the vision 
into the land and thus diverting it from the hor- 
izontals are the only recourse. 1 In the shore 
view the sun's rays create a series of lines which 
admirably unite with the curve of the wagon 
tracks. The union of sky and land is thus ef- 
fected and meanwhile the subject proper has its 
ruggedness associated with the graceful compass 
of these elements. 

In fact transitional line is so powerful that un- 
less it contains a part of the subject it should 
seldom be used. 

In the "Annunciation" 2 by Botticelli the in- 
troduction of a long perspective line beyond the 
figures, continuing the lines of the foreground, 
railroads the vision right through the subject, 
carrying it out of the picture. If the attention 
is pinned perforce on the subject, one feels the 
interruption and annoyance of this unnecessary 
landscape. The whole Italian school of the 
Renaissance weakened the force of its portraits 

1 Page 54. 2 Page 204. 


and figure pictures by these elaborate settings 
which they seemed helpless to govern. In 
Velasquez we frequently find the simplification 
of background which saves the entire interest 
for the subject ; but even he in his " Spinners " 
and to a lesser degree in some other compo- 
sitions, makes the same error. In the greatest 
of Rembrandt's portrait groups, " The Syndics," 
his problem involved the placement of six 
figures. Four are seated at the far side of a 
table looking toward us, the fifth, on the near 
side, rises and looks toward us. His head, 
higher than those of the row of four, breaks this 
line of formality ; but the depth and perspective 
of the picture is not secured until the figure 
standing in the background is added. This pro- 
duces from the foreground figure, through one 
of the seated figures, the transitional line which 
pulls the composition forward and backward and 
makes a circular composition of what was com- 
menced upon a line sweeping across the entire 

The hillside entitled "Pathless," by Horsley 
Hinton is a subject easily passed in nature as 
ordinary, which has been however unified and 
made available through the understanding of 
this principle. So much of an artist is its author 
that I can see him down on his knees cutting 
out the mass of blackberry stems so that the two 
or three required in the foreground should strike 
as lines across the demi-dark of the lower middle 
space. The line of the hill had cut this off from 
the foreground and these attractive lines are as 


cords tying it on. From the light rock in 
the lower centre the eye zigzags up to the line 
of hillside, cutting the picture from one side 
to the other. Fortunately nature had supplied a 
remedy here in the trees which divert this line. 
But this is insisted on in the parallelism of the 
distant mountains. The artist, however, has the 
last word. He has created a powerful diversion 
in the sky, bringing down strong lines of light 
and a sense of illumination over the hill and into 
the foreground. The subject, unpromising in its 
original lines, has thus been redeemed. This 
sort of work is in advance of the public, but 
should find its reward with the elect. 


Gradation will be mentioned in another con- 
nection but as a force in balance it must be 
noticed here. It matters not whither the tone 
grades, from light to dark or the reverse, the eye 
will be drawn to it very powerfully because 
it suggests motion. Gradation is the perspective 
of shade ; and perspective we recognize as one of 
the dynamic forces in art. "When the vision is 
delivered over to a space which contains no 
detail and nought but gradation, the original im- 
pulse of the line is continued. 

Gradation, as an agent of light, exhibits its 
loveliest effect and becomes one of the most in- 
teresting and useful elements of picture construc- 

As a force in balance it may frequently re- 
place detail when added items are unnecessary. 

A simple picture containing all the principles of composition 

HER LAST MOORINGS From a Photograph 



In "Her Last Moorings" the heavy timbers, 
black and positive in the right foreground, 
attract the eye and divide the interest. The di- 
version from the hulk to the sky is easy and 
direct and forms the natural axis. A substitu- 
tion for the foreground item is a simple grada- 
tion, balancing a like gradation in the sky. 

The measure of light and dark when mixed is 
tonically the same as the gray of the gradation 
but its attraction is weakened. 


These qualities are not synonymous but so 
nearly so that they are mentioned together. In 
discussing the principle of the steelyard it was 
stated that a small item could balance a very 
large one whose position in point of balance was 
closer to the fulcrum, but to this point must 
be added the increase of weight and importance 
which isolation gives. These considerations 
need not be mystifying. 

In the charge to Peter, "Feed my sheep," 
Raphael has produced something quite at va- 
riance with his ordinary plan of construction. 
Christ occupies one side of the canvas, the dis- 
ciples following along the foreplane toward him. 

Here is an isolated figure the equivalent of a 

The sleeping senator of Gerome's l picture ef- 
fects a like purpose among the empty benches 
and pillars. The main group is placed near the 
centre, the small item at the extreme edge. 
Even Caesar in the foreground covered by 

1 Page 176. 



drapery and in half shadow is less potent as an 
item of balance, than this separate figure. 


Finally the notion that the picture is a repre* 
sentation of depth as well as length and height 
develops the idea of balance in the chain of items 
from foreground to distance. A pivotal space 
then will be found, a neutral ground in the 
farther stretch from which may be created so 
much attraction as to upend the foreground, or 
in the nether reach toward us there may be such 
attraction as to leave the distance without its 
weight in the convention of parts. The group 
with insufficient attraction back of it topples 
toward us, to be sustained within the harmo- 
nious circuit of the picture only by such items of 
attraction behind it as will recover a balance 
which their absence gave proof of. This is a 
more subtle but none the less potent influence 
than the vertical and lateral balance and may 
best be apprehended negatively. The "aggres- 
siveness" of many foreground items which are 
in themselves essential as form and correct in 
value is caused by the lack of their balancing 
complements in the back planes of the picture. 

Balance is not of necessity dependent upon 
objects of attraction. Its essence lies in the 
movement from one part of the picture to an- 
other, which the arrangement compels, and this 
may often be stimulated by the intention or sug- 
gestion of movement in a given direction. 


TIIK MADONXA OK TIII: \I:M. /.'/////(/ 
Irrelevancy of sulijcct and background, TIIK LAST .Ii I;M I:NT - .M i<-lui<! .\iujilo 

main linos of tin- hitler repellim: cohesion Composition in three tiers and sulxlivicled vertically, 

a strain to unity 

MIKTII or -|-]i': Viit;ix MAKV IHinr 
Subject relegated to background, 
picture divided through center 

Ti i K A x x i ' x ( i ATIOX liotticcl'.i 
Subject disturbed by lack of reserve in back- 
ground, the vision drawn across the fore- 
ground by continuing verticals 

Photo. Muusey's Magazine 
Figures supporting each oilier in 
vortical colutnns 

THE Ixx Ti-itiirx 

Two complete pictures on one canvas, no 
element of union 


THE NORTH RsvERPrcndegast 


Scribner's Magazine 





THE artist gets his picture from two sources. 
He either goes forth and finds it, or creates it. 
If he creates it the work is deliberate, and the 
artist assumes responsibility. If he goes to na- 
ture, he and nature form a partnership, she sup- 
plying the material and he the experience. In 
editing the material thus supplied, the artist dis- 
covers how great is the disparity between art 
and nature, and what a disproof nature herself is 
to the common notion that art is mirrored na- 
ture, and that any part of her drawn or painted 
will make a picture. 

The first stage of the art collector is that in 
which his admiration dwells on imitation such as 
the still-life painter gives him, but soon his art 
sense craves an expression with thought in it, the 
imitation, brow-beaten into its proper place and 
the creative instinct of the artist visible. In 
other words, he seeks the constructive sense of 
the man who paints the picture. " The work of 
art is an appeal to another mind, and it cannot 
draw out more than that mind contains. But to 
enjoy is, as it were, to create ; to understand is a 
form of equality." l With the horse before the 
cart and the artist holding the reins, he gets a 

1 " Considerations on Painting," John LaFarge. 


fresh start, and is in a fair way to comprehend 
Richard Wagner's assertion that you cannot 
have art without the man. In the same manner 
does the student usually develop. With the 
book of nature before him he is eager to sit 
down anywhere and read, attracted by each 
separate item of the vast pattern, but he finds 
he has opened nature's dictionary and that to 
make poetry or even good prose he must put the 
separate words and phrases together. 

After the first roll of films has been printed 
and brooded over, the kodac person is apt to ask 
in a tone of injured and deceived innocence, 
" Well, what does make a picture ? " 

He with others has supposed it possible to go 
to nature and, taking nothing with him, bring 
something back. Though one does not set out 
with the rules of composition, he must at least 
present himself before nature with fixed notions 
of the few requirements which all pictures de- 
mand. Having looked at a counterfeit of her 
within four sides of a frame and learned to know 
why a limited section of her satisfied him by its 
completeness he approaches her out of doors 
with greater prospects of success than though he 
had not settled this point. Good art, of the 
gallery, is the best guide to a trip afield. Having 
seen what elements and what arrangements have 
proved available in the hands of other men, the 
student will not go astray if he seek like forms 
in nature. Armed with defininite convictions he 
will see, through her bewildering meshes the 
faithful lines he needs. The star gazer with a 


quest for the constellations of the Pleiades 
or the Great Bear, must close his eyes to 
many irrelevant stars which do not fit the 
figure. Originality does not require the avoid- 
ance of principles used by others. Pictorial 
forms are world's property. Originality only 
demands "the causing to pass into our own 
work a personal view of the world and of life." 1 
Personality in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred 
is a graft. The forms of artistic expression have 
been preempted long ago. The men who had 
the first chances secured the truest forms of it 
and in a running glance through a miscellaneous 
collection of prints one's attention is invariably 
arrested by the force of the pictures by the older 
masters; so dominating is the first impression 
that we concede the case upon the basis of effect 
before discovering the many obstacles and omis- 
sions counting against their greater efficiency. 
But the essence is of the living sort. With this 
conceded and the fact that nature's appeal is 
always strongest when made through association 
with man it is for us to cultivate these associations. 

"Study nature attentively," says Kej'nolds, 
" but always with the masters in your company ; 
consider them as models which you are to imi- 
tate, and at the same time as rivals, with whom 
you are to contend." 

A wise teacher has said the quickest road to 
originality is through the absorption of other 
men's ideas. 

Before going forth therefore with a canvas or 

1 John La Farge. 


plate holder, it behooves us first to know what 
art is. Certainly the most logical step from the 
study of constructive form is through the prac- 
tical technique of work which we would emulate. 
To copy interpretations of outdoor nature by 
others is commendable either at the experimental 
period, when looking for a technique, or as an 

Besides this mental preparation, the next best 
equipment for finding pictures is a Claude Lor- 
raine glass, because, being a convex mirror, it 
shows a reduced image of nature in a frame. 
The frame is important not only because it 
designates the limitations of a picture, but be- 
cause it cuts it free from the abstracting details 
which surround it. If one has not such a glass, 
a series of small pasteboard frames will answer. 
The margin should be wide enough to allow the 
eye to rest without disturbance upon the open 
space. Two rectangular pieces that may be 
pushed together from top or side is probably the 
most complete device. The proportion of the 
frame is therefore adaptable to the subject and 
the picture may be cut off top, bottom or sides 
as demanded. 

Many artists reduce all subjects to two or three 
sizes, which they habitually paint. The view- 
meter may in such cases be further simplified by 
using a stiff cardboard with such proportions cut 
out. 1 By having them all on a single board a 
subject may be more rapidly tested than by the 
device of the collapsible sides. A light board, 
the thickness of a cigar-box cover, 4x5 inches, 

1 Page 156. 


and easily carried in the pocket, will enable one 
to land his subject in his canvas exactly as he 
wants it, and avoid the grievance of reconstruc- 
tion later. By leaving a broad margin about the 
openings, one obtains the impression of a picture 
in its mat or frame, and may judge of it in na- 
ture as he will after regard it when completed 
and on exhibition. 

The accompanying photograph 1 was produced 
by a revolving camera encompassing an area of 
120 degrees. As a composition it is not bad, but 
unfortunate here and there. It has a well-defined 
centre, and the two sides balance well, the left 
clogging the vision and thus giving way to the 
right, which allows the eye to pass out of the 
picture on this side beyond the fountain and 
across the stretch of sunlight. At a glance, 
however, one may see three complete pictures, 
and with the aid of the view-meter a number of 
other combinations may be developed. Its con- 
struction is that of Hobbema's "Alley near 
Middelharnes," in the National Gallery, London, 
of so pronounced formality that a number of 
such construction in. a gallery, would prove 

Beginning on the left, we may apply the view- 
meter first to exclude the unnecessary branch 
forms and sky space on the top ; second, to cut 
away the tree on the right, which, in that it par- 
allels the line of the margin, is objectionable, and 
is rendered unnecessary as a side for the picture 
by the two trees beyond in the middle plane ; 
and, third, to limit the extent of the picture on 

1 Page 69. 



the bottom^ tending as it does to force the spec- 
tator back and away from the subject proper. 
The interest is divided between the white build- 
ing and rustic bridge and the pivot of this com- 
position adjusts itself in line with the centre tree. 
In the next picture the first tree on left of 
avenue is cut away for the same reason as in the 
previous arrangement, and although one of a line 
of trees in perspective, the trunk as an item is 
unserviceable, as its branches start above the 
point where the top line occurs, and can there- 
fore render no assistance in destroying an abso- 
lute vertical as has been done in the left tree by 
the bifurcation, and the first on the right by the 
encroaching masses of leaves. The eye follows 
the receding lines of roadway beneath the can- 
opy and is led out of the picture by the light 
above the hill. The last arrangement is more 
formal than either of the others but gives us the 
good old form of composition frequently adopted 
by Turner, Rousseau, Dupre, and others, namely 
of designing an encasement for the subject 
proper, through which to view it. For that 
reason after the arch overhead has been secured 
all else above is cut away as useless. The print 
has been cut a little on the right, as by this 
means the foreground tree is placed nearer that 
side and also because the extra space allowed too 
free an escapement of the eye through this 
portal, the natural focus of course being the 
fountain where the eye should rest at once. It 
has been cut on the bottom so as to exclude the 
line where the road and the grass meet an es- 



pecially bad line, paralleling the bottom of the 
picture and line of shadow upon the grass. This 
shadow is valuable as completing the encase- 
ment of the subject on the bottom and in start- 
ing the eye well into the picture toward its 

Our natural vision always seeks the light. 
Shadows are the carum cushions from which the 
sight recoils in its quest for this. Letting the 
eye into the picture over a foreground of sub- 
dued interest, or better still, of no interest is one 
of the most time-honored articles of the picture- 
maker's creed. If the reader will compare the 
first and last of these three compositions he will 
see how in this respect the first loses and the last 
gains. The element of the shaded foreground in 
the first was cut out in preserving a better place- 
ment for the subject. 

The photographer comes upon a group of cows. 
" Trees, cattle, light and shade a picture 
surely 1 " Fearful of disturbing the cows he ex- 
poses at a distance, then stalks them, trying 
again with a different point of sight and, having 
joined them and waited for their confidence, 
makes the third attempt. 1 On developing, the 
first one reveals the string-like line of road cut- 
ting the picture from end to end, the cattle as 
isolated spots, the tree dividing the sky space 
into almost equal parts. In the second, the 
lower branch of tree blocks the sky and on the 
other side there is a natural window, opening 
an exit into the distance. This is desirable but 
unfortunately the bending roadway on the right 

1 Pajje 60. 


accomplishes the same purpose and so two exits 
are offered, always objectionable. With this out, 
the value of the rock and foreground cow is also 
better appreciated as leading spots taking us to 
the natural focus, the white cow lying close to 
the tree. The rock in left corner having no in- 
fluence in a leading line should be suppressed. 
The cattle now swing into the picture from both 
sides and one of them opposes the horizontal of 
her back to the vertical of the tree, thus easing 
the force of its descent. 

In the last there is much more concentration. 
The road does not parallel the bottom and though 
passing out of the picture the vision is brought 
back again along the distant line of trees. The 
objection to this arrangement lies in the equal 
division of the subject by the tree-trunk. The 
white cow focalizes the vision but the sky and 
the more graceful branches soon capture it. The 
cow in the right foreground is only valuable as 
an oppositional measure to the line of cows 
stretching across the picture which it helps to 
divert, otherwise she carries too much attraction 
to the side. 

The best arrangement for the subject would 
have been the tree one-third from the left side, the 
white cow touching its line, one or two of those 
lying on the ground working toward the fore- 
ground in a zigzag, little or no diversion from 
the distance on the left of tree. The swing 
of the picture would then have been from the 
foreground to the focus, the white cow and tree, 
thence to the group under the tree and out 


through the sky. This would have divided the 
picture-plane into thirds instead of halves, bring- 
ing it into the form elsewhere recommended 
as being the arrangement of Claude's best 

r 73 



Getting Into the Picture. 

IN coming at a picture, the first question is, 
how to get into it. 

One reason why so many pictures are passed 
by in exhibitions is that the public lacks an invi- 
tation to enter, while others, by contrast, greet 
you a long way off. One feels obliged to stop 
and acknowledge their cordiality. Some admit 
you to their confidence through the side door, 
and into others you have to climb over a barrier, 
or a lot of useless detail which, ofttimes conceals 
admirable quality. 

The open door is a surer invitation than the 
diffident latch-string. Mystery, subtlety and 
evasive charm are all in place in a work of art, 
but should not stand on the threshold. One 
spot or circumference there should be to- 
ward which, through the suppression of other 
parts, the eye is led at once. When there, even 
though the vision has passed miles into the can- 
vas, one is at the starting-point only, from which 
to proceed in viewing the picture. Any element 
which proves too attractive along this avenue of 
entrance is confusing to the sight and weakening 
to the impression. 



One item after another, in sequence, the visitor 
should then be led to, and, having made the 
circuit and paid his respects to the company in 
the order of importance with that special care 
which prevails at a Chinese court function, the 
visitor should be shown the exit. Getting out of 
a picture is almost as important as getting into 
it, but of this later. 

If the artist, in the composition of his picture, 
cannot so arrange a reception for his guests, he is 
not a successful host. 

This disposal of the subject matter into which 
principality enters so acutely is more patent in 
the elaborate figure subject than in any other, 
with the distinction between an assemblage of, 
and a crowd of figures, made plain. 

The writer once called, in company with a 
friend of the painter, upon the late Edmond 
Yon, the French landscapist. We found him in 
his atelier, and saw his completed picture, about 
to be sent to the Salon. He shortly took us into 
an adjacent room, where hung his studies, and 
thence through his house into the garden, showed 
us his view of the city, commented on the few 
fruit trees, the flowers, as we made the circuit of 
the little plot, and, at the porte, we found the 
servant with our hats. It was a perfectly logic- 
ally sequence. We had come to the end; and 
how complete ! 

" He always does it so," said the friend. We 

had seen the man, his picture, his studies, his 

house, caught the inspiration of his view, had 

made the circuit of the things which daily sur- 



rounded him, and what more nothing; except 
the hats. Bon jour ! 

The new picture, like any new acquaintance, 
we are tempted to sound at once, in a single 
glance, judging of the great and apparent planes 
of character, seeking the essential affinity. If we 
pass favorably, our enjoyment begins leisurely. 
The picture we are to live with must possess 
qualities that will bear close scrutiny, even to 
analysis. If we are won, there is a satisfaction 
in knowing why. 

It must be remembered that the actual picture 
space in nature is that of a funnel, 1 its size varying 
according to the extent of distance represented. 
The angle of sixty degrees which the eye com- 
mands may widen into miles. The matter of 
equipoise or unity therefore applies to most ex- 
tended areas and no part of this extent may es- 
cape from the calculation. 

The objection of formal balance over the 
centre is that it produces a straddle, as, in hop- 
scotch one lands with both feet on either side of 
a dividing line. In all pictures of deep perspec- 
tive the best mode of entrance is to skate in, 
with a series of zigzags, made easy through the 
habit of the eye to follow lines, especially long 
and receding ones. It is the long lines we seize 
upon in pinning the action of a figure, and the 
long lines which stretch toward us are those 
which help most to get us into a picture. 

The law here is that of perspective recession, 
and, it being the easiest of comprehension and 
the most effective in result, is used extensively 

1 Page 73. 


by the scene-painter for his drop-curtain and by 
the landscapist, whose subject proper lies often 
in the middle distance toward which he would 
make the eye travel. 

When the opportunity of line is wanting an 
arrangement of receding spots, or accents is an 

The same applies, though in less apparent force, 
to the portrait or foreground figure subject. 

Where the subject lies directly in the fore- 
ground, the eye will find it at once, but the care 
of the artist should even then be exercised to 
avoid lines which, though they could not block, 
might at least irritate one's direct vision of the 

Conceive if you can, for one could rarely find 
such an example in pictorial art, of the forespace 
corrugated with lines paralleling the bottom line 
of a frame. It would be as difficult for a 
bicyclist to propel his machine across a plowed 
field as for one to drive his eye over a fore- 
ground thus filled with distracting lines when 
the goal lay far beyond. 

Mr. Schilling, in his well-known "Spring 
Ploughing," has treated this problem with great 
discernment. Instead of a multiplicity of lines 
crossing the foreplane, the barest suggestion suf- 
fices to designate plowed ground, the absence of 
detail allowing greater force to the distant 

In the Marine subject, especially with the sea 
running toward us, long lines are created across 
the foreground, but with respect to these, as 


may be noted in nature, there is a breaking and 
interlacing of lines in the wave form so that the 
succession of such accents may lead tangentially 
from the direction of the wave. A succession of 
horizontal lines is however the character of the 
marine subject. When the eye is stopped by 
these it has found the subject. Only through 
the sky or by confronting these forms at an 
angle can the force of the horizontals be broken. 
Successful marines with the camera's lens 
pointed squarely at the sea have been produced, 
but the best of them make use of the modifying 
lines of the surf, or oppositional lines or grada- 
tions in the sky. 

In a large canvas by Alexander Harrison, its 
subject a group of bathers on the shore, one 
single line, the farthest reach of the sea, proves 
an artist's estimate of the leading line. On it the 
complete union of figures and ocean depended. 
Its presence there was simple nature, its strong 
enforcement the touch of art. 

The eye's willingness to follow long lines may 
however become dangerous in leading away 
from the subject and out of the picture. What 
student cannot show studies (done in his earliest 
period) of an interesting fence or stone wall, 
blocking up his foreground and leading the eye 
out of the picture ? It is possible to so cleverly 
treat a stone wall that it would serve us as an 
elevation from which to get a good jump into 
the picture. Here careful painting with the in- 
tent of putting the foreground out of focus, 
could perhaps land the eye well over the obstruc- 


tion, and if so, our consideration of the picture 
begins beyond this point. If the observer could 
take such a barrier as easily as a cross country 
steeple-chaser his fences and stone walls, there 
would be no objection, but when the artist 
forces his guest to climb ! he is unreasonable. 
For two years a prominent American landscape 
painter had constantly on his easel a very power- 
ful composition. The foreplane of trees, with 
branches which interlaced at the top, made, with 
the addition of a stone wall below, an encase- 
ment for the picture proper, which lay beyond. 
The lower line, i. e., the stone wall, was in 
constant process of change, obliterated by shadow 
or despoiled by natural dilapidation, sometimes 
vine-grown. In its several stages it showed 
always the most critical weighing of the part, 
and a consummate dodging of the difficulties. 

When finally exhibited, however, the wall had 
given way to a simple shadow and a pool of 
water. The attempt to carry the eye over a 
cross-line in the foreground had been a long and 
conclusive one, and its final abandonment an ad- 
monition on this point. A barrier across the 
middle distance is almost as objectionable. In 
the subject of a river embankment the eye comes 
abruptly against its upper line, which is an 
accented one, and from this dives off into the 
fathomless space of the sky, no intermediate ob- 
ject giving a hint of anything existing between 
that and the horizon. 

In order to use such a subject it would be 
necessary to oppose the horizontal of the bank 


by an item that would overlap and extend above 
it, as a hay wagon with a figure on top of it or 
the sail of a boat, and if possible to continue this 
transitional feeling in the sky by such cloud 
forms as would carry the eye up. Attraction in 
the sky would create a depth for penetration 
which the embankment blocked. 

The " Path of the Surf M1 is a splendid leading 
line ending most beautifully in a curve. 

Many readers will recall the notable picture 
by Mr. Picknell, now deceased, of a white road 
in Picardie. Here all the lines converged at the 
horizon. The perspective was so true as to 
become fascinating, a problem of very ordinary 
deception. More subtle is Turner's "Approach 
to Venice," see Fundamental Forms, 2 in which the 
lines are substituted by spots the gondolas 
which, in like manner, bear us to the subject. 
The graceful arch of the sky also presses us to- 
ward the subject. 

One may readily use the placement of the 
spots and substitute cattle instead of gondolas 
and woods for the spired city ; or groups of 
figures, sheep, rocks, etc. The composition is 
fundamental, and will accommodate many sub- 

This is important because necessary. It is 
much better to pass out than to back out. Pic- 
tures show many awkward methods of exit. In 
some there are too many chances to leave ; in 
others there are none. Pictures in which there 

1 Page 85. Page 17; Radii. 



is no opportunity for visual peripatetics require no 
such provision. In the portrait we confront a 
personality, and some painters plainly tell us by 
the blank space of the background that there 
shall be but one idea to the observer's mind. In 
this event he has but to bow and withdraw. But 
suppose the curtain of the background be drawn 
and a glimpse is disclosed of a landscape beyond. 
This bit of attraction leads us toward it. Instead 
therefore of breaking off from the subject we are 
led away from it. The associations with the 
subject are ofttimes interesting and appropriate 
and the great majority of portraits include them. 
As soon therefore as we begin on any detail in 
the background we connect the portrait with the 
pictorial and the sitter becomes one of a number 
of elements in the scheme, the fulcrum on which 
they balance. A patch of sky, besides creating 
an expansion in the diameter of the picture in- 
troduces color, often valuable, as noted later. 

But more than this, these sky spots in a dark 
background are air holes. They enable us to 
breathe in the picture, giving a decided sense 
of atmosphere. When well subordinated they 
offer no distraction to the subject, but give to 
the picture a depth. "When no other object is 
introduced, a gradation is serviceable. Much 
may be thus suggested and besides the depth and 
air properties thus introduced, such variety of 
surface excites visual motion. The eye always 
follows the course of light from the shadow. 
The artist may make use of this fact in balancing 
the picture and of leading the eye out where he 


will. As it is desirable to enter the picture in a 
series of curves or zigzags, in like manner it 
should be left, though the natural finish of such 
a series should connect easily with its start. 

The eye should never be permitted to leave the 
principal figure or object and go straight back 
and out through the centre. If this is allowed 
the width of the picture is slighted. Therefore 
if the attraction of the natural exit is greater 
than other objects they exist in vain. 

The exit should be so guarded that after the 
visitor has moved about and seen everything, he 
comes upon it naturally. For example conceive 
a subject figures or cattle with the principal 
object in the foreground. From this the other 
objects, all placed on the left side, move in a 
half circle back and into the picture, this cir- 
cuit naturally leading to an opening in the trees or 
to a point of attraction in the sky or to a glimpse 
of distance. If this be not of less interest than 
any object of the progression, the unity of the pic- 
ture disappears, for from the principal object in the 
foreground the vision goes direct to the distance. 

Providing two or more exits is a common error 
of bad composition. This is the main objection 
to the form of balance on the centre, which pro- 
duces two spaces of equal importance on either side. 

In the drawing of the " Shepherdess " l by Millet 
the attraction of two alleys which the eye might 
take is largely regulated by the subordination of 
one of them by proportional size and a lowering 
of the tone of the sky. At best, however, it is a 
case of divided interest, though the deepest dark 

1 Page 85. 


against the highest light helps to control the sit- 
uation. If for the balance of the pines in the 
snow scene 1 a small tree on the right were added, 
the objection would then be that from the central 
point of attraction, the pines, the vision would 
go in two directions, toward the houses and the 
tree. The visual lines connecting these two 
points would cross the first or principal object 
instead of leading from this to one and thence to 
the other as would not be the case if the added 
tree appeared in the extreme distance on the right. 
Under this arrangement there would be progres- 
sion into the picture. A still better arrangement 
would have been direct movement from the mass 
of trees to the houses placed on the right, with 
the space now occupied by them left vacant. 

1 Page 32. 




THE entrance into a picture and obstacles 
thereto, as applied to landscape, has already been 
considered, from which it is evident that wisdom 
renders this as easy as possible for the vision, not 
only negatively, but through positive means as 
well. An obstruction through which penetration 
is impossible, clogging the picture in the fore- 
ground or middle distance when such an object 
is not the subject, or when the interest lies be- 
yond, produces a redundant composition. 

When in nature we observe a scene that natur- 
ally fits a frame and we find ourselves gazing 
first at one object and then at another and re- 
turning again to the first, we may be sure it will 
make a picture. 

But when we are tempted to turn, in the in- 
spection of the whole horizon (though this be 
circular observation), it proves we have not found 
a picture. Our picture, on canvas, must fit an 
arc of sixty degrees. The other thing is a pano- 
rama. The principle is contained in the illustra- 
tion of the athletes. 1 This picture has the fasci- 
nation of a continuous performance and so in 
degree should every picture have. 

In the foreground, or figure subject the same 
principles apply. The main point is to capture 

1 Page 86. 

Triangles Occurring on the Leading Line 

Composition Exhibiting a Double Exit 

Triangular Composition Circular Observation 



the observer's intere^o with the theme, which to 
his mental processes shall unfold according to the 
artists plan. With twenty objects to present, 
which one on the chessboard of your picture 
shall take precedence and which shall stand next 
in importance, and which shall have a limited in- 
fluence, and which, like the pawns, shall serve as 
little more than the added thoughts in the 

In " The Slaying of the Unpropitious Messen- 
gers," a picture of great power and truly sublime 
in the simplicity of its dramatic expression, the 
vision falls without hesitation on the figure of 
Pharaoh, easily passing over the three pros- 
trate forms in the immediate foreground. These 
might have diverted the attention and weakened 
the subject had not they been skillfully played 
for second place. Their backs have been turned, 
their faces covered, and, though three to one, the 
single figure reigns supreme. Kote how they are 
made to guide the eye toward him and into the 
picture and discover in the other lines of the 
picture an intention toward the same end, the 
staircase, the river, the mountain, the angular 
contour of the portico behind tying with the 
nearer roof projection and making a broken 
stairway from the left-hand upper corner. See, 
again, the lines of the canopy composing a 
special frame for the master figure. 

Suppose a reconstruction of this composition. 
Behold the slain messengers shaken into less re- 
cumbent and more tragic attitudes, arranged 
along the foreplane of the picture ; let all the 


leading lines be reversed ; make them antagonis- 
tic to the principles upon which the picture was 
constructed. The subject indeed will have been 
preserved and the story illustrated, but the fol- 
lowing points will be lost and nothing gained : 
A central dominating point of interest ; the dis- 
parity between monarch and slave ; the senti- 
ment of repose and quietude suggested by a 
starlit night and the coordination of recumbent 
lines; the pathos of the lonely vigil, with the 
gaze of the single figure strained and fixed upon 
the distant horizon whence he may expect the 
remnants of his shattered army. 

The artist's first conception of this subject was 
doubtless that of a pyramid ; the head of Pha- 
raoh is the apex and the slaves the base and side 
lines. The other lines were arranged in part to 
draw away from this apparent and very com- 
mon form of composition. One has but to look 
through a list of notable pictures to find evi- 
dence of the very frequent use of these concen- 
tric lines drawing the vision from the lower 
corners of the picture to an apex of the pyramid. 

Now, herein lies the analogy between the 
simplest form of landscape construction and the 
foreground or figure subject. The framework of 
both is the pyramid, or what is termed the struc- 
ture of physical stability. In the landscape the 
pyramid lies on its side, the apex receding. It 
is the custom of some figure painters to construct 
entirely in pyramids, the smaller items of the 
picture resolving themselves into minor pyra- 
mids. In the single figure picture the portrait, 


standing or sitting the pyramidal form annihi- 
lates the spaces on either side of the figure, 
which, paralleling both the sides and the frame, 
would leave long quadrilaterals in place of dimin- 
ishing segments. 

Whether the pyramid is in perspective or one 
described on the foreplane of a picture, the prin- 
ciple is, leading lines should carry the eye into 
the picture or toward the subject, a point touched 
upon in the preceding chapter. 

When reverie begins in a picture, one's vision 
involuntarily makes a circuit of the items pre- 
sented, starting at the most interesting and wid- 
ening in its review toward the circumference, as 
ring follows ring when a stone is thrown into 
water. The items of a picture may arrange 
themselves in elliptical form, and the circuit may 
bend back into the picture ; or the form may be 
described on a vertical plane, but the circuit should 
be there, and if two circuits may be formed the 
reverie will continue that much longer. The 
outer circuit finished, the vision may return to 
the centre again. If in a landscape, for instance, 
the interest of the sky dominates that of the 
land, the vision will centre there and come out 
through the foreground, and it is important that 
the eye have such a course marked out for it, 
lest, left to itself, it slip away through the sides, 
and the continuous chain of reverie be broken. 

It is interesting to note in what cycles this 
great wheel of circular observation revolves, 
directing the slow revolution of our gaze. 

In one picture it takes us from the comer of 


the canvas to the extreme distance and thence in 
a circuit back ; in another it moves on a flat 
plane like an ellipse in perspective. Again, first 
catching the eye in the centre, it unfolds like a 

Much of a painter's attention is given to keep- 
ing his edges so well guarded that the vision in 
its circuit may be kept within the canvas. A 
large proportion of the changes which all pic- 
tures pass through in process of construction is 
stimulated by this consideration how to stop a 
wayward eye from getting too near the edge 
and escaping from the picture. "When every 
practical device has been tried, as a last resource 
the centre may be strengthened. 

In order to settle this point to the student's 
satisfaction no better proof could be suggested 
than that he paint in black and white a simple 
landscape motif, with no attempt to create a focus, 
with no suppression of the corners and no circuit 
of objects a landscape in which ground and sky 
shall equally divide the interest. He may pro- 
duce a counterfeit of nature, but the result will 
rise no higher in the scale of art than a raw 
print from the unqualified negative in photog- 
raphy. The art begins at that point, and con- 
sists in the production of unity, in the establish- 
ment of a focus, in the subordination of parts by 
the establishment of a scale of relative values, 
and in a continuity of progression from one part 
to another. The procedure will be somewhat as 
follows : Decision as to whether the sky or 
ground shall have right of way ; the production 

Triangle with Circular Attraction 

\ Sphere within a Circle 

Circle and Radius 

The Circle Vertical Plane 


of a centre and a suppression of contiguous 
parts ; the feeling after lines which shall convey 
the eye away from the focal centre and lead it 
through the picture, a groping for an item, an 
accent, or something that shall attract the eye 
away from the corner or side of the picture, 
where, in following the leading lines, it may 
have been brought, and back toward the focus 
again. Here then, will have been described the 
circuit of which we speak. In the suppression 
of the corners the same instinct for the elliptical 
line has been followed, for the composition, by 
avoiding them, describes itself within the inner 

A composition in an oval or circle is much 
more easily realized than one occupying a rec- 
tangular space, as the vexing item of the corners 
has been disposed of, and the reason why these 
shapes are not popularly used is that hanging 
committees cannot dispose of them with other 
pictures. The attempt in the majority of com- 
positions, however, is to fit the picture proper to 
the fluent lines of the circle or oval. In " Hunts- 
man and Hounds," a picture which is intro'duced 
because the writer is able to speak of points in its 
construction which these principles necessitated, 
the pyramidal form of composition is apparent, 
and around this a circuit is described by the hand, 
arm, crop, spot on dog's side, elbow of dog's 
foreleg, line of light on the other dog's breast, 
the light on table and chair in background all 
being points which catch the eye and keep it mov- 
ing in a circuit. In the first arrangement of this 


composition a buffet occupied the space given 
to the indication of chair and table. This did 
not assist sufficiently in diverting the awkward 
line from the left shoulder, down the arm, into 
the dog's head and out of the picture. Judg- 
ment here lay between filling the space with the 
dog's head, which would have separated it too 
far from the man, or striving to divert it as 
noted. The space between this line and the side 
of the canvas was the difficult space of the pic- 
ture. There is always a rebellious member in 
every picture, which continues unruly through- 
out its whole construction, and this one did not 
settle itself until several arrangements of the 
part were tried. In order to divert the precipi- 
tate line a persistence of horizontals was neces- 
sary the table, the chair and the shadow on the 
floor. The shadows and the picture on the wall 
block the top and sides, and the shadow from 
the fender indicated along the lower edge com- 
plete the circuit and weaken the succession of 
verticals in the legs of dog and man. 


Circular observation in pictures whose struc- 
ture was apparently not circular leads to the 
consideration of circular composition, or that 
class of pictures where the evident intention is 
to compose under the influence of circular ob- 
servation where the circle expresses the first 
thought in the composition. 

This introduces us to the widest reaches of 
pictorial art, for in this categorv lie the greatest 


of the world's pictures. Slight analysis is neces- 
sary to discover this arrangement in the majority 
of the strongest compositions which we encoun- 
ter. In the Metropolitan and Lenox Galleries of 
New York, the following pictures may be looked 
at for this form of structure, showing the circle 
either in the vertical plane or in perspective. 
Auguste Bonheur's large cattle-piece, Inness' 
"Autumn Oaks," Corot's "Ville d'Avray," 
Knaus' " Madonna," Cabanel's kneeling female 
figure, Koybet's " Card Players," " Jean d'Arc," 
by Bastian Lepage; "The Baloon," by Julian 
Dupre ; Wylie's " Death of the Vendean Chief," 
Leutze's "Crossing of the Delaware," Meisson- 
ier's " 1807," the three pictures of Turner, " Mil 
ton Dictating to His Daughters," by Munkacsy, 
and Knaus' " Row at a Peasants' Ball." This 
list contains the most important works of these 
collections, and others might easily be added. 

The head by Van Dyck carries with it the re- 
pose which belongs to the completeness of the 

Like Saturn and his ring, this sphere within 
the circle is typical of harmony in unity, and 
for this reason, though detached as we know it 
to be, it has a greater completeness than though 
joined to a body. It is on this general principle 
that all circular compositions are based absorp- 
tion of the attention within the circuit. 

In Tintoretto's "Marriage of Bacchus and 

Ariadne," the floating figure offers us a shock 

not quite relieved when we recall the epoch of 

its production or concede the customary license 



to mythology. At a period in art when angels 
were employed through a composition as a stage 
manager would scatter supernumeraries to fill 
gaps or create masses in any posture which the 
conditions of the picture demanded, it is not 
strange that the artist conceived this figure sus- 
pended from above in an arc of a circle, if in 
these lines it served his purpose. In this shape 
it completes a circuit in the figures, fills the space 
which would otherwise open a wide escape for 
the vision, and, by the union of the three heads, 
joins the figures in the centre of the canvas, com- 
pleting, with the legs of Ariadne, five radial 
lines from this focus. 

To the mind of a sixteenth century artist, 
these reasons were more convincing than the ob- 
jection to painting a hundred and forty pounds 
of recumbent flesh and blood, with the support 
unseen. To the modern artist such a conception 
would be well-nigh impossible, though Mr. Watts 
gives us much the same action. Here, however, 
the movement of the draperies supplies motion 
to the figure of Selene, and as a momentary 
action we know it to be possible. Were the in- 
terpretation of motion by hair and drapery im- 
possible, and the impression, as in the Tintoretto, 
that of the suspended nude model, it would be 
safe to say that no modern painter would have 
employed such a figure. This touch of realism, 
even among the transcendental painters, denotes 
the clean-cut separations between the modern and 
mediaeval art sense. 

While these two examples show the " vortex " 


arrangement with fluent outlines, the portrait l by 
Mr. Whistler expresses the same principles in an 
outline almost rectangular, but is to be placed in 
the same category as the other two. The chair- 
back, the curtain, the framed etching, are all 
formally placed with respect to the edges of the 
canvas, and as we observe them in their order, 
we return in a circuit to the head. 

The circle in composition is discoverable in 
many pictures where there is no direct evidence 
that the intention was to compose thus, but 
wherein analysis on these lines proves that, led 
by unity, balance and repose (cardinal beacon- 
lights to the mind artistic), the painter naturally 
did it. 

It is of interest to review this picture through 
its simple evolution. The head conceived in its 
pose, the next line of interest is one from neck to 
feet. This, besides being the edge of the black 
mass of the body, is the more apparent against 
the light gray wall and as a line is attractive in 
forming Hogarth's " Line of Beauty." But beau- 
tiful as it may be, it commits an unlovely act in 
cutting a picture diagonally, almost from corner 
to corner. Interruption of this is effected by 
the hands and increased by the handkerchief. 
Shortly below the knee this is diverted by the 
base-board and at the bottom squarely stopped 
by the solid rectangle of the stool. 

Suppose that the picture on the wall were 
missing ; not only would the long parallelogram 

1 Portrait of the artist's mother; see Fundamental forms of 
Chiaroscuro, page 169. 



of the curtain be unrelieved, but the return of 
the line to the subject in the ensemble of the 
picture would be broken. This, therefore, be- 
comes the keystone of the composition. Other 
considerations besides its diversion from the cur- 
tain are, its curtailing of wall space, and, by its 
close placement to the curtain, its union there- 
with as a balance for head and body in bulk of 
light and dark almost identical with them, 
though less forcible in tonal value. 

In Wiertz's group about the body of Patroclus, 
though its contour is more decidedly circular 
(and in the use of this term is always meant a line 
returning on itself), it fails to prompt circular 
observation to the same extent as the foregoing. 
The eye seesaws back and forth along the lines 
of the hammock arrangement of light, and we 
are conscious of the extreme balance and the 
careful parcelling out of the units of force. 

With all its evident abandon the method is 
painfully present, as though the artist, given so 
much Greek, was careful to add the same amount 
of Trojan. The level and plummet setting of the 
group exactly within the sides of the frame, with 
no suggestion of anything else existing in the 
world, puts it into the class of formal decoration, 
with which old masterdom abounds, and whence 
Wiertz received the inspiration for most of his 
great compositions. 

More studiable is the vortex arrangement of 

the " 1807," with its magnificent sweep of 

cavalry, where the tumultuous energy of one 

part is augmented by fine antithesis of repose in 



"1807" Mcissonier 


> s: 


another. Meissonier's composition was expanded 
after the first conception was nearly completed. 
The visitor at the Metropolitan Museum may 
discover a horizontal line in the sky and a ver- 
tical one through the right end. This slight 
ridge in the canvas shows the dimensions of the 
original thought. The added space gave larger 
opportunity for the maneuvres of the cuirassiers, 
and set Napoleon to the left of the exact centre, 
where, by the importance of his figure, he more 
justly serves as a balance for the heavier side of 
the picture. 

As in the Whistler portrait, the keystone was 
the picture on the wall, in this composition the 
group of mounted guardsmen on the left gives a 
circle's unity to it, helps to join the middle dis- 
tance with the foreground, becomes the third 
point in the triangle, which gives pyramidal solid- 
ity to the composition and is altogether quite 
as important to the picture as the right wing to 
an army. 

Corot was wont to rely on Nature's gift as she 
bestowed it, merely allowing his sensitive pic- 
ture-sense to lead him where pictures were, rather 
than upon any artful reconstruction of the facts 
of nature. His " Little Music," as he called it>, 
came for the most part ready-made for him, and 
he simply caught it and wrote the score. His 
art is less impressive for composite qual- 
ity, than, for example, that of Mauve, who, in the 
same simple range of subject, sought to produce 
a perfect composition every time. In the " Lake 
at Yille d'Avray," we have one of Corot's hap- 


piest subjects, though not especially characteris- 
tic. A considerable part of its charm lies in our 
opportunity to girdle it with our eye, and in im- 
agination from any point along its rim to view 
its circumference as a page from Nature, com- 


Circular composition traceable in what has 
been first conceived as pyramidal or rectangular, 
circular composition as the first intention, ex- 
pressed either on a vertical plane or in perspec- 
tive, i. e., circular or elliptical and composition 
made circular not by any arrangement of parts, 
but by sacrifice and elimination of edges and 
corners are the three forms of composition which 
produce circular observation. The value of the 
circle as a unifying and therefore as a simplifying 
agent cannot be overestimated, especially in solv- 
ing the problems which occur in composition 
where the circle has not been a part of the orig- 
inal scheme, but where, when applied, it seems to 
bring a relief to confusion and disorder. ID 
many cases where all essential items are happily 
arranged, but, as a whole, refuse to compose, the 
addition of some element or the readjustment of 
a part which will produce circular observation, 
will ofttimes prove the solution of the difficulty. 

Just as progression in a straight line will soon 
carry us out of the picture, will circular progres- 
sion keep us within its bounds. If then, circular 
observation affords the best means of apprecia- 
[ I02 1 


tion, it follows that circular composition is the 
most telling form of presentation. There are 
many subjects which naturally do not fall in 
these lines, but which may ofttimes be reedited 
into this class. This reediting means composi- 
tion, and two examples from a vast number are 
here given to show the working out of the prob- 
lem. In the "Hermit," 'by Dow, the figure," 
book and hour glass compose in a simple left 
angle, but the head becomes the centre to a cir- 
cular composition by the presence of the arch 
above and the encircling shadow behind and be- 
neath the arm. The corners sacrifice their space 
to strengthen the centre and the vision is thus 
completely funneled upon the head. In striking 
contrast to this is the composition by Boucher. 
Here are the elements for two or three pictures 
thrown into one, and in some respects well gov- 
erned as a single composition. Conceive, how- 
ever, this subject bereft of the darkened corners, 
and the gradations which create a focus. The 
figures would lie upon the canvas somewhat in 
the shape of a letter Z, devoid of essential coher- 
ence, with the details in the foreground hopelessly 
exposed as padding. 

Another resort in order to secure a vortex, or 
a centre bounded by a circle, is to surround the 
head or figure with flying drapery, branch forms, 
a halo or any linear item which may serve both 
to cut out and to hem in. It accomplishes some- 
thing of what the hand does when held as a tun- 
nel before the eye. Such a device offers ready 
aid to the decorator whose figures must often 

1 Page 100. 



receive a close encasement, fitted as they are into 
limited spaces, when many an ungracious line in 
the subject is made to disappear through the 
accommodation of pliant drapery or of varied 
tree forms. 

In this class of compositions especially must the 
background be made the complement of the sub- 
ject. What the subject fails to contain may 
there be supplied, a sort of auxiliary oppor- 

The subject, or most interesting part, should 
lie either within the circuit or be the most im- 
portant item of the circle. It should never be 
outside the circle. If it appears there, the eye is 
thrown off of the elliptical track. If the reader 
will compare the "Lake at Ville d'Avray' n by 
Corot with his " Orpheus and Eurydice," the 
charm in the former may reveal itself more com- 
pletely through the jar to which the latter sub- 
jects us. The figures of the divine lyrist and his 
bride escaping out of one corner of the canvas do 
not enter at all into the linear scheme and in 
their anxiety to flee Hades they are about to 
leave art and the spectator. The picture is a 
strange counterpart of the Apollo and Daphne 
of Giorgione at Venice, and since it is known of 
Corot that he cared infinitely more for nature 
than art, it is fair to suppose that he had never 
seen this picture either in the original or repro- 
duction. Had he been governed by the feeling 
for unity which his works usually display this 
pitfall in the borders of plagiarism would not 
have snared him. 

1 Page 99. 

[ 104] 



Figures <>utsi<li> the natural line of the picture's composition 

THE HOLY FAMILY Andrea del Sc.rto 
The circie overbalanced 

Separated concepts expressing separate ideas 

Separated concepts of one idea 


Unity through a cumulative idea 



The " Holy Family," by Andrea del Surto, is a 
composition in which the good intention of the 
artist to make a complete line within the sides of 
the canvas seems a matter of greater concern 
than other principles of composition, quite as im- 
portant. The ellipse of the three figures is beau- 
tifully carried out, but it leaves one of them, the 
most important, in the least important place. 
The whole composition sags in this direction, the 
weight of Joseph, in half shadow, being insuf- 
ficient to recover the balance. With these figures 
all well drawn and especially adapted in their 
contours to the organic lines of composition, 
several rearrangements might be made, as well 
as other arrangements, with any one of the four 
figures omitted, its place used for reserved space. 
No better practice in linear and mass composi- 
tion could be suggested than slight modification 
of parts by raising or lowering or spacing or by 
the reconstruction of the background, of well 
known pictures in which the composition is con- 

A common mistake in the use of the circular 
form is that of making it too apparent. A list 
of pictures might be made wherein the formal 
lines of construction are very much in evidence. 
Such could be well headed by Raphael's " Death 
of Ananias," where the formality of the arrange- 
ment is on a par with the strain and effort ex- 
pressed in every one of its figures. The curved 
peristyle of kneeling disciples offers a temptation 
to push the end man and await the result on the 
others, more to witness a rearrangement than 


create any further commotion in the infant 
church. The fact that this work is decorative 
rather than pictorial in intention cannot relieve 
the representation of an actual occurrence of the 
charge of being struck off in an oft-used and well 
worn mold. Compare with this Rembrandt's fa- 
mous circular composition, " Christ Healing the 
Sick," wherein though the weight on either side 
of Christ is about evenly divided, the formality 
of placement has been most carefully avoided, 
and where the impression is merely that the 
Healer is the centre of a body of people who sur- 
round him. 

With the great principle of linear composition 
in mind, namely, that the vision travels in the 
path of least resistance, no rule need be formu- 
lated and no further examples produced to prove 
that the various items of a composition are taken 
at their required value to the extent to which they 
adhere to and partake of the established plan of 




The Triangle. 

IN angular composition the return of the 
eye over its course, as in circular observation, is 
practically eliminated. While the circle and el- 
lipse offer a succession of items and events, one 
the sequence of the other, so that the vision 
concludes like a boomerang, angular composition 
sends a shaft direct, with no return. 

Here the pleasure of reverie through an end- 
less chain must be exchanged for the stimulation 
of a shock, for force by concentration, for rug- 
gedness at the expense of elegance. 

Pure triangular composition is a form rarely 
seen, as in most cases where the lines of the tri- 
angle are detected as the first conception, other 
lines or points have been added to destroy or 
modify them. 

Jacque has been successful in the man- 
agement of what is considered a difficult 
form. In the herder with cattle although we 
feel in the next moment the subject will have 
passed, while it lasts the artist has kept the eye 
upon it by the use of dark figures at either end 
and a concentration of light in the centre ; also 
by the presence of the tree in the distance which 
turns the eye into the picture as it leaves the 
cow on the right. 

[ 107] 


Another example more complete as a composi- 
tion is his famous " Shepherd and Sheep," l in 
which the angle is formed by the dark dog at the 
extreme right, the lines expanding through the 
figure of the shepherd and thence above into a 
group of trees and below along the edge of the 
flock. In this example the base line runs into 
the picture by perspective and thence back into 
the picture to the trees. 


The "Departure for the Chase," 2 by Cuyp, 
shows an unsuccessful use of this shape. 

In " The Path of the Surf," 3 the main f erm- 
ine surf is a triangle and the two supporting 
spaces triangles. Such a construction is partic- 
ularly stable, as these focalize on the line of in- 
terest. Some artists construct most of their 
pictures in a series of related triangles. The 

1 See Fundamental Forms of Construction, page 17. 
4 Page 128. 3 Page 85. 


writer calling upon Henry Bacon found him 
painting a group of transatlantic travellers on a 
steamer's deck. He pointed out a scheme of tri- 
angles which together formed one great tri- 
angle, but said he was looking for the last point 
for the base of this. A monthly magazine was 
suggested, which, laid open on its face, proved U 
dernier clou. 


WHEN Giotto was asked for his conception 
of a perfect building, he produced a circle. 
When Michael Angelo was appealed to, he desig- 
nated the cross. On both bases may good archi- 
tecture and good pictures be founded. If the 
extremities of the Greek cross be connected by 
arcs, a circle will result, and if the Latin cross be 
so bounded we will have a kite-shape, or ellipse. 
The two designs are, therefore, not as dissimilar 
as may at first be supposed. In both, from the 
pictorial standpoint, they are the framework by 
means of which the same given space may be 

The simple vertical line is monotonous. Its 
bisection produces balance ; a cross is the result. 
Again, two crosses placed together, the arms 
touching, and three crosses in like position, will 
represent the picture plan of the grouping so 
frequently used by Raphael a central figure 
balanced by one on either side, the horizon join- 
ing them, and behind this the balance repeated 
in trees and other figures. 

[ I0 9] 


Pictorially, the vertical line is much more im- 
portant than any other. It is the direction of 
gravity ; it represents man upright, in distinc- 
tion from the brutes ; it also can stand alone, ali 
other lines demanding supports. Of two equally 
forcible lines, this would first be seen. In com- 
position, therefore, it has the right of way. 

Let us start with a subject represented by 
a vertical line a tree or figure. The directness, 
rigidity, isolation and unqualified force of such a 
line demands balance; otherwise, extension is 
the sole idea. With the thought of a frame 
or sides of the picture comes the necessary hori- 
zontal line, bisecting the vertical. Length and 
breadth have then been represented, something 
in two dimensions started, and the four sides of 
a frame necessitated. 

In sculpture this consideration weighs nothing. 
A statue is framed by all outdoors. The verti- 
cal of a single figure pierces the unlimited sky, 
and the only consideration to the artist is that 
the mass looks well from any point of view. 
The group by Carpeaux is a sample of plastic art 
unusually picturesque, and would easily fit a 
frame, because in it the vertical figure is sup- 
ported by horizontals, both of lines and in the 
idea of lateral movement. It is, therefore, solid 
and complete and sets forth in its structure the 
thought of Alexander the Great when he had his 
artists represent, in a design painted upon his 
equipments, lasting power as a sword within 
a circuit. 

This piece of sculpture is a cross within a 

AI.ONK Josef Israels 
Constructive Synthesis I'pon the Vertical 

THE DANCE Carpcaux 
The Cross Within a Circle 



(5 > 





cylinder, but on a flat plane the principle is just 
as forcible, as will further be shown in the pic- 
ture by Israels. 

"The Crucifixion," by Morot, is more statu- 
esque than picturesque, and would gain in effect 
if seen unembarrassed by the limitations of a 
frame. Its strength in one situation is its weak- 
ness in another. The presence of the frame 
creates three spaces, one above the horizontal 
and one on either side of the vertical, and these 
are empty. Therefore, although the single 
thought of the dying Saviour is sufficiently great 
to bear nay, even, perhaps, demand isolation, 
it unites itself with nothing else within our com- 
pass of vision, and, therefore, cannot be said 
to compose with its frame. The reader is now 
in a position to appreciate the simple mechanics 
which underlie the composition by Israels. In 
" Alone " the artist starts with the figure of the 
man a vertical. The next thought closely 
allied is the woman. The two complete a cross. 
From either end two more verticals are erected. 
On the left another horizontal joins the vertical 
in the top of the table and unites it with another 
vertical, the shutter, and so on to the edge of the 
picture. On the other side the basket top leads 
off from the vertical and thence down the side 
to the floor and to the edge of the picture by the 
lines of fagots. The circuit, which helps to keep 
the vision in the picture and serves to render 
more compact the subject proper, is developed 
by the shelf, weights of the clock, basket, cap, 
items upon table, shutter and bedpost. For 


proof that the horizontal lines in this compo- 
sition were all placed there for the relief of 
the verticals, with the first of which the picture 
starts, let us remove the table, basket and bench 
and see how the arrangement becomes one of 
quadrangles, paralleling instead of uniting with 
the sides. In every case, in the accompanying 
illustrations, there has been an effort to reach 
out toward the sides and take hold there. Those 
that have established these points of contact 
most fully are the most stable and the most 

In the composition of the "Beautiful Gate," 1 by 
Raphael, the two pillars, in that they span the 
whole distance from bottom to top, destroy all 
chance for unity. Three pictures result instead 
of one a triptych elaborately framed. Even 
with these verticals cutting the picture into sec- 
tions, had horizontals been introduced between 
them and in front, or even behind, some of the 
necessary unity of pictorial structure could have 
been secured. What connection exists between 
these several parts is all subjective, but not 
structural, the impulse to exhibit the wonderful 
columns in their remarkable perfection of detail 
being a temptation to which the picture was 

Such an exhibition of the uncontrolled vertical 
produces an effect on a par with a football car- 
ried straight across the field and placed on the 
goal line without opposition. All the strategy 
of the game is left out, and although the play 
produces the required effect in the score, a few 

'Page 119. 


repetitions of the procedure would soon clear the 
benches. The interest to the spectators and 
players alike enters in when the touch-down is 
accomplished after a series of zigzags toward the 
outer line, where force meeting force in a counter 
direction results in a tangent, when the goal is 
reached by the subtlety of a diagonal. A cushion 
carom is an artistic thing ; a set-up shot is the 
beginner's delight. In the " Allegory of Spring," l 
by Botticelli, we have a sample of structure lack- 
ing both circular cohesion and the stability of 
the cross adhesion. Like separate figures and 
groups of a photographic collection, it might be 
extended indefinitely on either side or cut into 
four separate panels. The accessories of the fig- 
ures offer no help of union. Besides the lack of 
structural unity, no effort toward it appears in 
the conception of the subject. Each figure or 
group is sufficient unto itself, and the whole 
represents a group of separate ideas. This is not 
composition, but addition. 

But what of the single figure in standing por- 
traiture, when only the person is presented, and 
no thought desired but that of personality, when 
the outline stands relieved by spaces of nothing- 
ness? Though less apparent, the principle of 
union with the sides still abides. What is known 
as the lost and found outline is a recognition of 
this, an effort of the background to become 
homogeneous with the vertical mass, the line 
giving way that the surrounding tone may be let 
in. Such is the feeling with which many of the 
most subtle of Whistler's full-lengths have been 

1 Page 105. 

[U5 J 


produced. The portraits of Carriers are still 
more striking examples of absolute dismissal of 

In the well-known portrait of " Alice," by Mr. 
Chase, where the crisp edges of a white dress are 
relieved against a dark ground, such treatment 
is impossible. Here, however, the device of fly- 
ing ribbons is a most clever one, which, besides 
giving the effect of motion, causes an interrup- 
tion in these clean-cut outlines, as also in the 
formal spaces on either side. The horizontal ac- 
cent of dark through the centre of the canvas, 
suggesting a grand piano in the dim recesses be- 
hind, fulfills a like obligation from the linear as 
well as tonal standpoint. 


As the vertical may be termed the figure 
painters' line so the horizontal becomes the line 
of the landscape painter. Given these as the 
necessary first things, the picture is made by 
building upon and around them. The devices 
which aid the figure painter in disposing of one 
or many verticals have been briefly viewed. A 
consideration of the horizontal will necessarily 
take us out of doors to earth and sky, where na- 
ture constructs on surfaces which follow the 

The problem in composition which each of 

these lines presents is the same and the principle 

governing the solution of each identical ; balance 

by equalization of forces. Given a line which 



coincides with but one side of the picture it 
becomes necessary for the poise of the quadri- 
lateral to cross it with an opposing line. The 
rectangular cross, though more positive and 
effective, is no more potential in securing this 
unity than the crossing of lines at a long angle. 
A series of right angles will in time arrive at the 
same point as the tangent, 1 but less quickly. 
Each angle in such an ascent produces the parity 
of both horizontal and vertical. The tangent ex- 
presses their synthesis. In Fortuny's " Connois- 
seurs," 2 the right angle formed by the line of 
the mantel and the statue takes the eye to the 
same point as the tangent of the shadow. 
Again, the principle allows the modification of 
any arm of the cross, maintaining only the fact 
of the cross itself. When a line passes through 
the first or necessary line of construction it has, 
so to speak, incorporated itself as a part of the 
picture, and what it becomes thereafter is of 
no great importance. If the reader will make 
simple line diagrams of but a few pictures, 
this point will be made clear, and it will be 
found that such diagrams which represent either 
the actual lines of direction or lines of suggestion 
from point to point or mass to mass will com- 
fortably fill the quadrilateral of the frame as a 
linear design. 

In all analyses of pictures the student should 
select the first or most commanding and neces- 
sary line of the conception. Having found this 
thread the whole composition will unravel and 
disclose a reason for each stitch. 

1 Page 51. * Page 32. 

[ "7] 


Let a horizontal base line be assumed and 
verticals erected therefrom, without crossing it. 
The reason why no picture results is because 
there is no cross. Such a design would suggest 
many of Fra Angelico's decorations of saints and 
angels ; or the plan of the better known decora- 
tion of " The Prophets " at the Boston Library 
by Sargent. These groups, it must be remem- 
bered, are not pictorial and are not compositions 
from the picture point of view. Their homoge- 
neity depends not on interchange of line or upon 
other mechanics of composition, but only upon 
the unity of associated ideas. In instances, 
however, where some of the figures of these 
groups are joined by horizontal lines or masses 
which bisect these verticals the pictorial inten- 
tion begins to be felt. 

Of the accompanying illustrations 1 that of the 
view on the shore with overhanging clouds 
shows a most persistent lot of horizontals with 
nothing but the lighthouse and the masts of the 
vessels to serve for reactive lines. At their 
great distance they would accomplish little to 
relieve this disparity of line were it not for the 
aid of the vertical pillar of cloud and the pull 
downward which the eye received in the pool 
below the shore. The most troublesome line in 
this picture is the shore line, but an effort is 
made here to break its monotony by two accents 
of bushes on either side. What> therefore, would 
seem to be a composition " going all one way," 
displays, after all, a strong attempt toward the 
recognition of the principle of crossed lines. 

1 Page 120. 

Rectangle Unbalanced 

Verticals Destroying Pictorial Unity 

*- i ' -- ' itttVf * ^ -X ' * 

' -1:--,, 4.r -V^ ;/' 

^1\S K^P^^M-iu 


Parity of Horizontals aud Verticals 


. - 

- ; -,, 


Crossings of Horizontals by Spot Diversion 



The sketch shows the constructive lines of a 
picture by Henry Ranger, and lacks the force of 
color by which these points are emphasized. 

In the wood interior the stone wall is the dam- 
aging line. Not only does it parallel the bottom 
line, always unfortunate, but it cuts the picture 
in two from side to side. Above this the bottom 
line of the distant woods gives another parallel- 
ing line, running the full length of the picture. 
Given the verticals together with these, how- 
ever, their force becomes weakened until there 
ensues an almost perfect balance, the crossing 
lines weighing out even. The sketch from 
Claude Lorraine, out of the " Book of Truth," 
shows a great left angle composition of line not 
very satisfactory, owing to its lack of weight for 
the long arm of the steelyard. The principle, 
however, which this sketch exhibits is correct, 
and its balance of composition would be easily 
effected by the addition of some small item of 
interest to the extreme left. It is not, however, 
a commendable type of composition, owing to 
the difficulty of obtaining a rational balance, but 
when this is to be had in just its right force the 
plan of lines is excellent. In the matter of meas- 
ures, were the whole composition pushed to the 
left we would at once feel a relief in the spaces. 
But the impressionist queries why not take it as 
it stands! So it might be taken, and a most 
balanced picture painted from it; but these con- 
siderations apply to the black and white, with- 
out the alteration which color might effect. 

No less aggravated a case of horizontals is the 



charming picture of mother and child by Mr. 
Orchardson. 1 The long cane sofa and the recum- 
bent baby are the two unaccommodating lines 
for which the mother's figure was especially 
posed. Howsoever unconscious may appear the 
renderings of this figure, plus the fan, the 
underlying structure of it conforms absolutely to 
the requirements of the unthinking half of the 
subject. It is an instance of an unpromising 
start resulting with especial success through 
skillful playing to its awkward leads. 

The principle of the diagonal being equivalent 
as a space filler to the crossed horizontal and 
vertical is shown by comparison of the wood in- 
terior with the winter landscape, 2 in which the 
foreground has been thus disposed of. The force 
of a horizontal is more cleverly weakened by 
such a line because besides adding variety it ac- 
complishes its intention with less effort. As a 
warning of what may happen when these prin- 
ciples are neglected or overdone one glance at 
the equestrian picture by Cuyp 3 is sufficient. His 
subject, a man on horseback, is an excellent 
cross of a horizontal and vertical in itself and 
simply required to be let alone and led away 
from. The background destroys this and, in- 
stead of being an aid to circular observation, 
persists in adding a line to one in the subject 
which should have been parried, and thus cuts 
the picture in two. 

Cuyp in this as in another similar picture had 
in mind light and shade rather than linear com- 
position, but even so, the composition shows little 

1 Page 127. 8 Page 127. z Page 128. 

[ 123 1 


intelligence. No amount of after manipulation 
could condone so vicious a slaughter of space 
and line opportunities which the background, 
with its reduplicating edge, accomplishes. 

Study in that vast and changeful realm the 
sky offers a greater opportunity for selection 
than any other part of nature. 

The sky is but one of two elements in every 
landscape and in the majority of cases it is the 
secondary element. If the sky is to agree with 
an interesting landscape it must retire behind it. 
If it causes divided interest, its interest must be 
sacrificed. Drawings, photographs and color 
studies of skies with the intention of combining 
them with landscape should be made in the 
range of secondary interest and with the calcula- 
tion of their fitting to the linear scheme of land- 
scape. Skies which move away from the horizon 
diagonally, suggesting the oppositional feeling, 
are more useful in an artist's portfolio than a 
series of clouds, the bottoms of which parallel 
the horizon, especially when these float isolated 
in the sky. When the formal terrace of clouds 
entirely fills the sky space, its massive structure 
is felt rather than the horizontal lines, just as a 
series of closely paralleled lines becomes a flat 


The most elastic and variable of the funda- 
mental forms of composition is the line of 
beauty, the letter S, or, conceived more angu- 
larly, the letter Z. This is one particularly 


adapted to upright arrangements and one largely 
used by the old masters. We are able to trace 
this curvilinear feeling through at least one-third 
of the great figure compositions of the Renais- 
sance. Note the page of sketches in the chapter 
on Light and Shade. 1 Though selected for this 

quality they show a strong feeling for the sweep- 
ing line of the letter S. "The Descent from 
the Cross," a most marked example, can well be 
considered one of the world's greatest composi- 
tions. Over and over again Rubens has repeated 
this general form and always with great effect. 
Whether the line is traceable upon the vertical 

1 Page 161. 
[ I2 4] 


plane or carries the eye into the picture and 
forms itself into the graceful union of one object 
with another, its great pictorial power is re- 
vealed to any who will look for it. 

In Hogarth's essay on " The Line of Beauty," 
he sets forth a series of seven curves selecting 
No. 4 as the most perfect. This is duplicated in 
nature by the line of a woman's back. If two be 
joined side by side they produce the beautiful 
curve of a mouth and the cupid's bow. Hori- 
zontally, the line becomes a very serviceable one 
in landscape. As a vertical it recalls the upward 
sweep of a flame which, ever moving, is symbolic 
of activity and life. To express this line both in 
the composition of the single figure and of many 
figures was the constant effort of Michael Angelo 
and, through Marcus de Sciena, his pupil, it has 
been passed down to us. By the master it was 
considered most important advice. " The great- 
est grace," he asserts, " that a picture can have is 
that it express life and motion, as that of a flame 
of fire." Yet in the face of such a statement 
from the painter of the " Last Judgment " it is dif- 
ficult to reconcile the lack of it in this great pic- 

The compound curve which this line con- 
tains is one of perfect balance, traceable in 
the standing figure. As an element of grace, 
alone, it affords the same delight as the inter- 
weaving curves of a dance or the fascination 
of coiling and waving smoke. Classic landscape, 
in which many elements are introduced, or any 
subject where scattered elements are to be swept 


together and controlled is dependent upon this 
principle. An absolute line is not of course nec- 
essary, but points of attraction, which the eye 
easily follows, is an equivalent. Many simple 
subjects owe their force and distinction entirely 
to a good introduction through a bold sweeping 
curved line. Thanks to the wagon track of the 
seashore, which may be given any required 
curve, the formality and frequent emptiness of 
this subject is made to yield itself into good com- 
position. When the subject rejects grace and 
demands a rugged form, the sinuous flow of line 
may be exchanged for an abrupt and forcible 
zigzag. In such an arrangement the eye is pulled 
sharply across spaces from one object to another, 
the space itself containing little of interest. In 
the short chapter on Getting out of the Picture, 
the use of this zigzag line was emphasized. 

The opportunity offered in the film-like cirrus 
clouds, which so frequently lie as the background 
to the more positive forms of the cumulous, for 
securing the oppositional feeling, is one frequently 
adopted by sky painters. Besides strengthening 
the structure pictorially such arrangement fre- 
quently imparts great swing and movement in 
the lines of a sky, carrying the eye away from 
the horizon. When positive cloud motion is de- 
sired these oppositional masses may become very 
suggestive of wind, different strata showing a 
contrasted action of air currents. 

As an adjunct to any other form of composition 
this line may be profitably employed. It plays 
second with graceful effect in the " Path of the 

Horizontals Opposed or Covered 

STREAM ix \\'INTER }]'. E. Schoficld 
Verticals and Horizontals vs. Diagonal 

Background Destroying Original Structure 

Manzi Joyant & Co. 

The Curvilinear Line 


Surf," " The Lovers," " The Stream in Winter," 
" The Chant," " 1807," and is traceable in many 
of the best compositions. 


The last of the great forms of composition is 
the rectangle, but this always in connection with 
oppositional balance. Such a form attaches itself 
to two sides of the picture and the importance 
of a reacting measure is obvious. In this lies the 
warrant for its use, for without it unity is impossi- 
ble. Of the six fundamental forms of composi- 
tion this is the only one which is dependent, all 
the others containing within themselves the ele- 
ment of balance. 

The rectangle plus the isolated measure ap- 
proaches the completeness of the cross and in the 
degree it lacks this completeness it develops op- 
portunities for originality. 

In the landscape by Corot 1 the letter L is 
plainly shown. (See diagram of Fundamental 
Forms.) The tree mass, cow and river bank in 
shadow serve as a sombre foil for the clump of 
trees upon the opposite shore which are bathed 
in the soft luminous haze of early morning. This 
is the real subject which, grafted upon the 
heavy structure of the foreground affects us the 
more through the contrast. In Mr. Pettie's pic- 
ture of " James II and the Duke of Monmouth," 
we have the opposition of the two lines, the at- 
traction in the open space being the line of seats 
along the wall. These, in the dimly lighted in- 

1 Page 99. 
L I2 9] 


terior, are scarcely assertive enough to effect the 
diversion which the open structure demands. 

In perspective this arrangement merges into 
the triangle which has already been discussed. 
The "Sheep and Shepherd," by Jacque is con- 
structed upon the L reversed and is an un- 
usually strong example of a rare arrangement 
(page 17). 


Structural line, or that which stands for the 
initial form of the picture and conjunctive line, 
or that which joins itself naturally to such form 
are the two phases of line which engage the 
scientific study of the artist. Line for line's sake 
is an opportunity offered him quite apart from 
structural considerations. Line has a distinct 
aesthetic value no less than one contributive to 
picture mechanics. Thus pictures conceived in 
vertical lines bespeak dignity, solemnity, quie- 
tude; pillars, trees of straight shaft, ascending 
smoke and other vertical forms all voice these 
and allied emotions. With slightly less force 
does a series of horizontals affect us and with a 
kindred emotion. But when the line slants and 
ceases to support itself, or becomes curved, move- 
ment is suggested and another set of emotions is 
evoked. The diagonal typifies the quick darting 
lightning. The vertical curved line is emblem- 
atic of the tongue of flame ; the horizontal curve, 
of a gliding serpent. In the circle and ellipse 
we feel the whirl and fascination of continuity. 
The linear impulse in composition therefore plays 

The vertical : line of :>o\vcv. 
grandeur, solemnity, severity 

Vertical line in action: dignified, measured, ponderous 

The horizontal, typifying quietude, repose, calm, solemnity 

The curved line : variety, movement 

The ellipse : line of continuity and unity 

Transitional line, cohesion 

SWALLOWS From The Strand 
The diagonal : line of action, speed 


WINTER LANDSCAPE After Photograph 
Line of grace, variety, facile sequence 

The same impulse with angular energy 
The line more attractive than the plane 

Composition governed hy the decorative 
exterior line 

DECEMBER After Photograph 
Uncii.-il lines with strong focalization 

Where I 'lire Line is the motive and Decoration the impulse 



a part in emotional art independent of the sub- 
ject itself. 

Pictorial art owes a large and increasing debt 
to decorative art and no small part of this is its 
simple beauty of line. It is rare however to find 
the painter governed in his first conception by 
&ny positive linear form. The outlines of great 
compositions only hint of decorative structure 
and give no evidence that they were planned as 
linear designs. The requirement of linear design 
that she beautifully fill a space is met by pic- 
torial composition through the many correlative 
opportunities which in her broader range are 
open to her, by which she adds to the funda- 
mental forms of construction (which often prove 
bad space fillers) such items as connect their out- 
lines with the encasement or frame. "With some 
ingenuity advocates of pure design as the basis 
of pictorial structure, point out the similarity of 
certain compositions to formal, ornamental de- 
sign or type forms of plants, flowers, etc., yet 
omit to state how many of the best compositions 
they reject in their search for the happy hit or 
to allow for the fact that in those which they 
cite, cruel disturbance of the beautiful scheme 
could easily be wrought by slight reconstruction, 
leaving the work quite as good. The author's 
contention is directly opposed to the notion that 
pictorial art is dependent on the flat plan of the 
design, which is only contributory, but that its 
essence is known by an apprehension of balance 
through the depth of the picture. Pictorial art 
is not an art of two dimensions but of three. 



STARTING with a single idea represented by 
a single unit the coexistent thought must be the 
frame or canvas circumference. Supplying this 
we may then think of the unit as a matter of 
proportion. When the amount of space allowed 
the unit has been decided, the space between its 
circumference and the dimensions of the canvas, 
or what may be called the surplus or contribut- 
ing area is the only thing that remains to 
engage us. Let the unit be a standing figure, or 
a portrait, head and shoulders. 

The unification of a unit, enclosed in four 
sides, with those sides can only be accomplished 
by either having the mass of the figure touch the 
sides of the canvas, or stretch toward them with 
that intent. According to the strength or 
number of such points of attachment will the 
unit be found to maintain a stable existence 
amid its surroundings. In the case of the single 
figure standing within the frame where no 
chance of contact occurs, the background should 
show an oppositional mass or line attaching 
at some point the vertical sides of the figure to 
the sides of the canvas. An equivalent of such a 
line is a gradation, often the shadow from the 
figure serving to effect this union. If the 
shadow unites the outline with the background 
in such a tone as to subdue or destroy this 


outline, the attachment becomes stronger and at 
the same time the positiveness of outline on 
the light side finds its contrast and balance in 
this area of mystery and envelopment. 

A development by chiaroscuro is a necessity to 
the pictorial unity of the single figure. 

In the portrait of Olga Nethersole (see "The 
Pose in Portraiture "), the photographer presents 
the section of a figure ; not a picture. The 
spaces in the background form no scheme with 
the figure and have not been used to relieve the 
lines of the skirt. The sacrifice in half-tone of 
the lower part would have given prominence to 
the upper and more important part. Owing to 
the interest and attraction of the triplicated folds 
of the dress the vision is carried all the way to 
the lower edge, where it is irritated by the 
sudden disappearance. The picture has no con- 
clusion. It is simply cut off, and so ended. 

It is the opinion of some artists that the por- 
trait having for its purpose the presentation of a 
personality should contain nothing else. With 
the feeling that the background is something that 
should not be seen, more art is often expended 
in painting a space with nothing in it than in 
putting something there that may not be seen. 
In doing nothing with a background a space may 
be created that says a great deal that it should not. 

There is nothing more difficult than the com- 
position of two units especially when both are of 
equal prominence. The principle of Principality 
sets its face sternly against the attempt. 


One must dominate, either in size, or attrac- 
tion, either by sentiment or action. 

Art can show distinguished examples of two 
figures of equal importance placed on the same 
canvas, but pictorially they lack the essential of 
complete art, unity. The critical study of this 
problem by modern painters has secured in por- 
traiture and genre much better solutions than 
can be found in the field of good painting up to 
the present. We may look almost in vain 
through old masterdom and through the ex- 
amples of the golden age of portraiture in Eng- 
land, discovering but few successes of such com- 
bination in the works of Gainsborough, Reynolds 
and others. 

The foreplacement of one figure over another 
does not always mean prominence for it. Light, 
as an element, is stronger than place. On this 
basis where honors are easy with the two sub- 
jects one may have precedence of place and one 
of lighting. 

The difficulty in the arrangement of two is in 
their union. If, for instance, they are opposed 
in sentiment as markedly as two fencers there 
yet must be a union secured in the background. 
If placed in perspective, perspective settles most 
of the difficulty. 

The accompanying pictures are examples at 
both ends of the scale. " The Lovers," l in con- 
struction, shows what all pictures demand, the 
centripetal tendency. All the elements consist. 
As a picture it is complete; another figure 
would spoil it for us and them. Not so the 

1 Page 147. 



" Poulterers " ; persons could come and go in this 
picture without effecting it. It is but a section 
at best. One can imagine a long row of pickers, 
or we could cut it through the centre and have 
two good studies. There is no union. The 
other contains principality, transition of line, 
balance of light and shade, circular observation, 
opposition of color values and the principle of 

In Mr. Orchardson's " Mother and Child" 1 the 
first place is given to the child in white; the 
background carries the middle tint and the 
mother has been reserved in black. Greater 
sacrifice of one figure to another, the mother to 
the child, is seen in Miss Kasebier's picture of a 
nude infant held between the knees of the 
mother whose face is so abased as to be unseen ; 
or in John Sargent's portrait of a boy seated and 
gazing toward us into space while his mother in 
the half-shadow of the background reads aloud. 
The greatest contributing force to contrast is 
sacrifice. The subject is known to be important 
by what is conceded to it. 

The portrait of two gentlemen by Eastman 
Johnson is one of the most successful attempts at 
bringing two figures of equal importance on to 
one canvas. They are in conversation, the one 
talking and active, the other listening and pass- 
ive, and the necessary contrast is thus created. 

In the combination of three units the objection 
of formal balance disappears. If one be opposed 
by two, the force gained by the one through iso- 

1 Page 127. 



lation commensurates the two. In such arrange- 
ment the two may be united by overlapping so 
that though the sense and idea of two be present 
it is shown in one mass as a pictorial unit. This 
general disposition, experience shows to be the 
best. Two other good forms are two separated 
units joined by other items and opposed to one, 
or the three joined either directly or by sug- 
gestion, the units balanced like a triangle by op- 
position. The Madonna and St. John with the 
Infant Christ is a sample of the first. (See 
page 204). In the " Connoisseurs " l by Fortuny 
we have the second form, and in the " Huntsman 
and Hounds" 2 the third. A most original and 
commendable arrangement of three figures by 
W. L. Hollinger appears in "The Pose in Por- 
traiture," the members of a trio, violin, cello and 
piano. The pianist is designated by the sug- 
gestion of her action which is completed out of 
the picture. In her position however she ac- 
complishes the balancing of two figures against 


A writer on the use of the figure in out-of-door 
photography after leading the reader through 
many pages concludes by saying : after all you 
had better leave them out. 

In two works on photography from an English 
and American press the writer has seen this 
article quoted in full and therefore infers that 
the author has been taken seriously. 

The relation of Man to Nature, and the senti- 

1 Page 32. 2 Page 91. 

fi 3 6] 


ment, interchangeable, proceeding from one to 
the other, is a link binding the one to the dust 
from which he sprang and the other to the 
moods of man to which she makes so great an 
appeal. It is a union of a tender nature to 
the real lover of the voiceless influences which 
surround him : 

"Tears, idle tears, 

I know not what they mean, . . . 
Else in the heart and gather to the eyes 
In looking on the happy Autumn fields." 

Can a sentiment so strong in fact, be divorced 
in art ? It is the fulcrum on which the art 
of Mauve and Millet and Walker lifts and turns 
us. It is not necessary to mention other 
painters ; but to the case in point observe that at 
Barbizon a photographer of artistic perceptions 
has for years followed in the footprints of Millet. 
If nature moves us directly she will move us 
through our own kind. We feel the vastness of 
a scene by the presence of a lone figure. The 
panoramic grandeur of the sky attracts us the 
more if it has also appealed to a figure in the 
picture. But beyond this affinity in the subject 
there are sufficient reasons why the figure should 
be included. The figure can be moved about as 
a knight in the game, hither and yon as the 
fixed conditions of topography demand. Many 
a landscape which would be entirely useless 
without such an element is not only redeemed, 
but is found to be particularly prepared and 
waiting for this keystone. Take for example 


a picture in which lines are paralleling one 
another in their recession from the foreground 
or where there is a monotony in any horizontal 
sequence. The vertical of the figure means the 
balance of these. The principle is one already 
noted, action balancing action in contrary di- 

What of the nymphs of Corot, or the lav- 
euses bending at the margin of the lake, the 
plowman homeward plodding o'er the lea, the 
shepherd on the distant moor, the woodsman in 
the forest, the farmer among his fields. We as- 
sociate our vision of the scene with theirs. 
When as mere dots they are discerned, the vast- 
ness of their surroundings is realized at their ex- 
pense and the exclamation of the psalmist is 
ours : " What is man that thou art mindful of 

The danger in the use of the figure is that it is 
so frequently lugged in. The friends that hap- 
pen to be along are often made to do. There is 
no case where the fitness of things is more com- 
pulsory than in the association of figures with 
landscape. The haymaker creates a sensation 
on Broadway but no more so than Dundreary 
crossing a plowed field in Oxford ties. As the 
poetry of a Corot landscape invites the nymphs 
to come and the ruggedness of the Barbizon 
plain befits the toiling peasants of Millet, so 
should our landscape determine the chord in 
humanity to be harmoniously played with it. 

A fault in construction is frequently seen in 
the lack of simplicity of foreplane and back- 


ground. It must first be determined whether it 
is to be a landscape with figures or figures 
in landscape. The half one and half another 
picture is a sure failure. 

The most serviceable material one may collect 
in sketching are such positions which play second 
or third parts in composition ; cattle or other 
animals in back or three-quarter view which 
readily unite with and lead to their principals. 

In the selection of the subject the main object 
has most of one's thought. This however usually 
" goes " without thought, asserting itself by its 
own interest. Figures which are less interesting 
than this and still less, such as will combine with 
the subject proper, are what the painter and 
illustrator long for. As with the background, 
those things which are not of sufficient interest 
to be worth while in themselves are, owing to 
their lesser significance, of the utmost importance 
to the composer. Note in the usual Yan Marke 
cattle picture of five cows, the diminishing inter- 
est in the other four, or the degree of restraint 
expressed in most of the figures successfully in- 
troduced into landscape. 




IN the statuesque group the outline is impor- 
tant because this is seen against the background 
of wall, or sky, and frequently in silhouette. 
Any fault in its contour as a mass is therefore 
emphasized. This consideration applies picto- 
rially to groups which are complete in themselves 
and have no incorporation with backgrounds, 
such for instance as the photographic group of a 
number of people. Here personality is the first 
requirement, but harmony of arrangement and 
picturesqueness may be united thereto. The two 
best shapes are the oval and the pyramid. In 
either of these outlines there is opportunity for a 
focal centre, always important. In forming such 
an arrangement the focus should be the first con- 
sideration, item by item being added. As the 
group approaches the outline it must be gov- 
erned according to the form desired. A more 
artistic combination of figures will be found to 
be a separation into a large and a small group, 
the principal figure placed in either. If in the 
former, the figures of the smaller group must be 
sacrificed to this figure, either in pose or light- 
ing. If the principal figure is in the smaller 
group or entirely separate, this isolation will 
prove sufficient for the distinction. 


Where greater liberties may be taken and the 
intention is for a purely artistic composition, the 
curvilinear S shape will be found a good line to 
build upon. When this is too apparent a single 
oppositional figure will destroy its formality. 

The possibilities of the single figure as a re- 
serve, kept to be placed at the last moment 
where something is necessary, are worth noting. 
If the group be too formal in outline, lateral ar- 
rangement, or expression, the reserve may be 
played as a foil to create a diversion. 

In all successful groups the principle of sacri- 
fice must play havoc. Here the artist should 
expect to pay for his art scruples. Kembrandt 
was the first painter sacrificed to these instincts. 
When the order to paint the " Municipal Guard " l 
came to him he saw in it an opportunity toward 
the pictorial. Knowing what this entailed he 
persevered, despite the mutterings of his sitters, 
the majority of whom were ill pleased with their 
respective positions. When finally the canvas 
was finished, full of mystery and suggestiveness 
and those subtle qualities, such as before had 
never been seen in Dutch art, those for whom 
it had been executed expressed their opinion by 
giving an order for the same to a rival. His 
picture is a collection of separate individuals, 
each having an equal importance. Here was the 
sudden ending of Kembrandt's career as a painter 
of portraits, only one canvas of an important 
group being painted thereafter the " Syndics." 
A certain reason in this popular criticism cannot 
be denied. The composition is unnecessarily 

1 Page 148. Popularly known as " The Night Watch." 


scattered and the placements arbitrary, though 
through the radial lines of pikes and flag pole 
the scattered parts are drawn together. The 
composition partakes of the confusion of the 
scene depicted, yet in its measure of parts one 
can doubt not that the comparative values of his 
sitters have been considered. 

The democracy of man in his freedom and 
equality is the despair of the artist who knows 
that the harmony of the universe is condi- 
tional on kingship and principalities and powers, 
and the scale of things from the lowest to the 

Says Mr. Ruskin : " The great object of com- 
position being always to secure unity that is, to 
make many things one whole the first mode in 
which this can be effected is by determining that 
one feature shall be more important than all the 
rest and that others shall group with it in sub- 
ordinate position." 

Principality may be secured either by attrac- 
tion of light as in a white dress or by placing the 
figure as the focus of leading lines as are sup- 
plied by the architecture of a building, or such 
lines as are happily created by surrounding 
figures which proceed toward the principal one, 
or by including such a figure in the most im- 
portant line. Again the figure for such a posi- 
tion may be the only one in a group which ex- 
hibits unconcern or absolute repose, the others 
by expression or action acknowledging such 

The summer time out-of-door group which is 


so frequently interesting only to "friends," in 
many cases affords opportunities for pictures at- 
tractive to all. The average photographer is 
concerned only with his people ; the background 
is brought to mind when he sees the print. 
Although little or no interest may be found in 
the background it should be appropriate, and 
should play a reserve part, serving the chiaros- 
curo and therefore the illumination of the sub- 
ject and creating an opportunity for the exit 
which always gives depth and an extended in- 
terest. A mass of foliage with little penetration 
by the sky except in one or two places and at 
the side, not the centre, may always be found 
safe. If the attraction is too great the group 
suffers. Appreciating the importance of his set- 
ting for groups the photographer must select 
these with three points in view ; simplicity, unin- 
terest and exit in background ; simplicity, unin- 
terest and leading line or balancing mass or spot 
(if required) in foreground. When looking for 
backgrounds he may feel quite sure he has one if 
it is the sort of thing he would never dream of 
photographing on its own account. Besides be- 
ing too interesting, most backgrounds are inap- 
propriate and distracting. The frequent com- 
mendations and prizes accorded to good subjects 
having these faults and therefore devoid of unity 
tell how little even photographic judges and 
editors think on the appropriate and essential 
ensemble in composition. 

With the background in unobjectionable evi- 
dence the photographer should rapidly address 


his posers a little lecture on compositional re- 
quirements and at the end ask for volunteers for 
the sacrificial parts, at the same time reminding 
them that the back or side view is not only char- 
acteristic of the person but often very interest- 
ing. He should maintain that a unity be evident 
in the group ; of intent, of line, and of gradation. 
The first is subjective and must be felt by the 
posers. The other two qualifications are for the 
artist's consideration. At such a time his ac- 
quaintance with examples of pictorial art will 
come to his aid. He must be quick to recognize 
the possibilities of his material which may be 
hurriedly swept into one of the forms which 
have justified confidence. 

"When a continuity of movement has been 
secured, a revisionary glance must be given to 
determine if the whole is balanced ; background, 
foreground and focus, one playing into the other 
as the lines of a dance, leading, merging, dissolv- 
ing, recurring. 

Mindful of the distractions of such occasions, 
the wise man has done his thinking beforehand, 
has counted his figures, has noted the tones of 
clothing and has resolved on his focal light. 
"With this much he has a start and can begin to 
build at once. His problem is that of the maker 
of a bouquet adding flower to flower around the 

To make a rough sketch from the models them- 
selves posed and thought over, with the oppor- 
tunity for erasures of revisions before leading 
them out of doors, often proves economy of time. 
[ 144] 


It is a custom of continental painters to com- 
pose extensive groups and photograph them for 
study in arrangement. The author has seen 
numerous compositions in photography in which 
artists have posed as characters of well-known 

Much can be learned of good grouping from 
the stage, especially the French stage. The best 
managers start with the picturesque in mind and 
are on the alert to produce well arranged pic- 
tures. The plays of Victorien Sardou and the 
classic dramas of the state theatre are studies in 
the art of group arrangements. 

It will be noticed in most groups that there 
is an active and a passive element, that many 
figures in their reserve are required to play 
second to a few. The active principle is repre- 
sented by these to whom a single idea is de- 
livered for expression. 

In " The Return of the Hunting Party " the 
group of hounds, huntsman and deer is such an 
element of reserve, contrasting its repose with 
the bustle and activity of the visitors. It is a 
diversion also for the long line stretching across 
the picture. This is the more evident through 
the repetition of it in the line of the second-story 
and roof and below in the line of game which 
unnecessarily extends the group of hounds. A 
relief for the insistent line of the figures could 
have been supplied by lighter drapery back of 
the table. This then would have created a cross 
tone connecting the hounds in a curve with the 
upper centre panel. It is a picture in five hori- 


zontal strips, and is introduced for the warn- 
ing it contains in its treatment of a group which 
is in itself a line. The well-known " Spanish 
Marriage " by Fortuny also shows the reserve 
group, but the contrast is more positive both in 
repose and color. The main and more distant 
group is well centralized and there is a clever 
diminuendo expressed in its characters. 

In " The Keapers " (page 128) this idea has apt 
illustration. The figure in the foreground is in 
contrast with the remaining three, both as an 
oppositional line and in his action, the three be- 
ing in repose. The single figure, though active, 
does not attract as much as the child who re- 
ceives importance from the attention of the two 
figures. Her position, opposed to the two, turns 
the interest back into the group. In all the 
compositions by this master one is impressed by 
the grace and force of the arrangement. A 
small portfolio of his charcoal reproductions or a 
few photographs of his pictures should be a part 
of the print collection of every artist. No bet- 
ter designer of small groups ever lived. 

With the amount of good art now coming 
from the camera it is strange that no groups of 
note have been produced. In the field of pure 
portraiture the attempt may as well be aban- 
doned. The photographer can at best but miti- 
gate conditions. The picture group can only 
apply when sacrifice and subordination are pos- 

A study of famous groups will settle this and 
other points mentioned beyond question. In the 
[ 146] 


THE POULTERERS ]l\illandcr 




religious group, where the idea of adoration was 
paramount, the principal figure was usually, 
though not always, given place in the upper part 
of the picture toward which by gestures, leading 
lines or directed vision our attention is drawn at 
once. Note the figures which sacrifice to this 
effect in the " Transfiguration," " The Immaculate 
Conception," " The Sistine Madonna," " The Vir- 
gin Enthroned," " The Adoration of the Magi," 
and in fact all of the world famous compositions 
of the old religious art. 

In one of the most famous of modern groups 
" The Cossacks Keply to the Sultan of Turkey," 
by the greatest of Russian painters Elias Kepine, 
the force given to the hilarious frenzy of the 
group by the occasional figure in repose is easily 
apparent (page 105). 

The answer to a summons for surrender is 
being penned upon a rude table around which 
press close the barbaric leaders of the forces 
gathered in the distance. Some are lolling on 
wine casks, others indifferently gaze at the fingers 
of the clerk as he carefully pens the document, 
others smoke silently, one is looking out of the 
picture as though unconcerned. Yet life and 
movement are instinct in every part, for though 
the action is consigned to but a few, these form 
a series of small climaxes through the entire cir- 
cumference of the group and we feel in another 
moment that the passive expressions will in their 
turn be exchanged for the mad ribaldry of laugh- 
ter which has seized their brethren. The group 
is a triumph for several aesthetic realities pro- 


duced and heightened by contrast and subordi- 

The principality of repose is well illustrated in 
the group of " The Chant " (page 175) where the 
inaction of the woman dominates through its con- 
trast with the effort expressed by the other mem- 
bers of the group. 

There are three types of group composition ; 
first, where the subject's interest is centred upon 
an object or idea within the picture as in " The 
Cabaret" or Rembrandt's "Doctors" surround- 
ing a dissecting table ; second, where the attrac- 
tion lies outside the picture as in the " Syndics " 
or the "Night Watch," and third, where absolute 
repose is expressed and the sentiment of reverie 
has dominated the group, as in " The Madonna 
of the Chair," and the ordinary family photo- 

The spiritual or sentimental quality of the 
theme should have first consideration and dictate 
the form of arrangement. A unity between the 
idea and its form of expression constitutes the 
desideratum of refinement in composition. 




IN this familiar term in art the importance of 
the two elements is suggested in their order. 

The effort of the painter is ever in the direc- 
tion of light. This is his thought. Shade is 
a necessity to the expression of it. 

Chiaroscuro, from the Italian, light obscure, 
in its derivation, gives a hint of the manufacture 
of a work of light and shade. 

Light is gained by sacrifice. This is one 
of the first things a student grasps in the 
antique class. Given an empty outline he pro- 
duces an effect of light by adding darks. So do 
we get light in the composition of simple ele- 
ments, by sacrifice of some one or more, or 
a mass of them, to the demands of the lighter 
parts. "Learn to think in shadows," says 
Ruskin. Rembrandt's art entire, is the best 
case in point. A low toned and much colored 
white may be made brilliant by dark opposition. 
The gain to the color scheme lies in its power to 
exhibit great light and at the same time suggest 
fullness of color. 

As we have discussed line and mass compo- 
sition as balanced over the central vertical line, 
so is the question of light and shade best com- 
prehended, as forces balancing, over a broad 


middle tint. The medium tint is the most im- 
portant, both for tone and color. This com- 
mands the distribution of measures in both direc- 
tions; toward light and toward dark. Draw- 
ings in outline upon tinted paper take on a sur- 
prising finish with a few darks added for shadow 
and the high lights touched in with chalk or 
Chinese white. The method in opaque water 
color, employed by F. Hopkinson Smith and 
others, of working over a tinted paper such as 
the general tone of the subject suggests, has its 
warrant in the early art of the Venetian 
painters. If a blue day, a blue gray paper is 
used ; if a mellow day, a yellow paper. 

In pictorial art the science of light and dark is 
not reducible to working formulae as in decora- 
tion, where the measures of Notan are governed 
on the principle of interchange. Through decora- 
tion we may touch more closely the hidden princi- 
ples of light and shade in pictures than without 
the aid of this science, and the artist of decorative 
knowledge will always prove able in "effect" in 
his pictorial work. 

With that clear conception of the power of 
the light and the dark measure which is ac- 
quired in the practice of " spotting " and filling 
of spaces, especially upon a middle tint, the 
problem of bringing into prominence any item 
of the picture is simplified upon the decorative 

Pictorially the light measure is more attract- 
ive than the dark, but the dark in isolation 
is nearly as powerful. 



With this simple notion in mind the artist pro- 
ceeds upon his checker-board opposing force to 

With him the work can never be as absorb- 
ing as to the decorator whose items are all of 
about the same value and of recurring kinds. 
The subject dictates to the painter who must 
play more adroitly to secure an eifect of light 
and shade by the use of devices such as nature 

As a matter of brilliancy of light, with which 
painting is concerned, the effect is greater when 
a small measure of light is opposed to a large 
measure of dark than when much light is 
opposed to little dark. Comparison between 
Whistler's " Woman in White," a white gown 
relieved against a white ground, the black of the 
picture being the woman's hair, and any one of 
the manger scenes of the fifteenth century 
painters with their concentration of light will 
prove how much greater the sense of light is in 
the latter. 

When much light and little dark produces 
great brilliancy it is usually by reason of a 
gradation in the light, giving it a cumulative 
power, as is seen in the sky or upon receding ob- 
jects on a foggy day. A small dark added, in- 
tensifies the light, not only by contrast of 
measure, but in showing the high key of the 
light measures. 

Accents of dark produce such snappiness as is 
commended by the publisher who esteems the 
brilliancy which a rapid interchange of lights and 


darks always yields, a sparkle, running through 
the whole and easily printed. The works of 
Mr. "Wenzell as a single example of this quality, 
or of Mr. Henry Hutt, in lighter key, will be 
found to gain much of their force from a very 
few accents of dark. On the other hand when 
the work deals with a medium tone and darks, 
with few high lights, these gain such importance 
as to control the important items. 

The value of the middle tint, when not used 
as the under tone of a picture is apparent as bal- 
ancing and distributing the light and dark 
measures of objects. When, for instance, these 
three degrees of tone are used, if the black and 
white are brought together and the middle tone 
opposed a sense of harmony results. The black 
and white if mixed would become a middle tone. 
"We feel the balance of measures without synthe- 
sis or inquiry. Many of the compositions of 
Tolmouche of two and three female figures are 
thus disposed, one figure having a gray dress 
and one a black dress and white waist, or a 
black figure and white are placed together and 
opposed to a figure in gray. In Munkacsy's 
" Milton Dictating to His Daughters," the broad 
white collar of the poet contrasted with his 
black velvet suit, is well balanced and dis- 
tributed by the medium tones of the three 

An accent is forcible in proportion as its own 
unit of intensity is distributed over the space on 
which it is placed. Take for instance a picture 
in India ink of a misty morning wherein the 

[ 154] 


whole landscape may be produced with a small 
drop of ink spread in light gradations upon ten 
by fourteen inches square. An object in the 
foreground one by two inches in which the same 
measure of black is used will of course possess 
powerful attraction. If, however, this measure 
be expanded the gain in bulk will be balanced by 
the loss in intensity. Less attraction for the ob- 
ject is given either by increasing the intensity of 
the surrounding tint or decreasing its extent. 
In the two pictures by Gerome of lions, the one 
in the midst of the vast space of desert obtains 
its force from its dark isolated in a large area. 
In the other picture the emerald green eyes of 
the lion are the attraction of the picture, as 
points of light relieved by the great measures of 
dark of the lion, together with the gloom of the 

The message of impressionism is light, as the 
effort of the early painters was to secure light, 
the quest of all the philosophies. The impres- 
sionist calls upon every part of his work to speak 
of light, the middle tint, the high lights and the 
shadow all vibrating with it. From the decora- 
tive point of view alone, the picture, as a surface 
containing the greatest amount of beauty of 
which the subject is capable is more beautiful 
when varied by many tones, or by few, in strong 
contrast, than when this variety or contrast is 
wanting. Those decorative designs have the 
strongest appeal in which the balancing measures 
are all well defined. There are schemes of much 
dark and little light, or the reverse, or an even 
[ 155] 


division, and in each case the balance of light 
and dark is sustained ; for when there is little 
dark its accenting power is enhanced and when 
little light is allowed, it, in the same manner, 
gains in attraction. But light and dark every 
work of art must have ; for to think of light 
without dark is impossible. When, therefore, 
the artist begins a picture his first thought is 


what is to be the scheme of light and shade ? 
The direction or source of the light helps a de- 
cision. The illumination of the subject is a study 
most easily proceeded with by induction, from 
particular cases to general conclusions. 

The effectiveness of the first of the two re- 
versible photographs 1 is as great as the last 
and the subject as picturesque though it be dis- 

1 Page 162. 


covered that the first is the second placed on 
end. It is able to satisfy us not only because of 
the happy coincidence that the leaves upon the 
bridge represent bark texture and the subdued 
light upon its near end creates the rotundity of 
the trunk or that a distant tree serves as the hor- 
izontal margin of a pool, but because its light 
and shade is conceived upon the terms of balance 
expressing in either position one of the funda- 
mental forms of light and shade and lineal con- 
struction, that of the rectangle in either light or 
dark together with an oppositional measure the 
light through the distant trees. 

With the history of art and the world's gallery 
of painting spread out before us, we may take a 
continuous view of the whole field. Leaving out 
the painters of the experimental era let us begin 
with the great masters of effect. 

Sir Joshua Keynolds tells us it was his habit in 
looking for the secrets of the masters of paint- 
ing to make rough pencil notes of those pic- 
tures that attracted him by their power of effect 
as he passed from one gallery to another. He 
found almost all of them revealed a broad mid- 
dle tone which was divided again into half dark 
and half light tones, and these, added to the 
accents of light and dark made five distinct tones. 
The Venetian painters attracted him most and, 
he says, speaking of Titian, Paul Veronese and 
Tintoret, " they appeared to be the first painters 
who reduced to a system what was before prac- 
tised without any fixed principle." From these 


painters he declares Rubens extracted his scheme 
of composition which was soon understood and 
adopted by his countrymen, even to the minor 
painters of low life in the Dutch school. 

" When I was in Yenice," he says, " the method 
I took to avail myself of their principle was 
this : When I observed an extraordinary effect of 
light and shade in any picture I darkened every 
part of a page in my note-book in the same gra- 
dation of light and shade as the picture, leaving 
the white paper untouched to represent light and 
this without any attention to the subject or the 
drawing of the figures. A few trials of this kind 
will be sufficient to give the method of their con- 
duct in the management of their lights. After a 
few experiments I found the paper blotted nearly 
alike : their general practice appeared to be to 
allow not above a quarter of the picture for light, 
including in this portion both the principal and 
secondary lights j another quarter to be as dark as 
possible and the remaining half kept in mezzo-tint 
or half shadow." 

" Rubens appears to have admitted rather more 
light than a quarter and Rembrandt much less, 
scarce an eighth ; by this conduct Rembrandt's 
light is extremely brilliant, but it costs too much ; 
the rest of the picture is sacrificed to this one 
object. That light will certainly appear the 
brightest which is surrounded with the greatest 
quantity of shade, supposing equal skill in the 

" By this means you may likewise remark the 
various forms and shapes of those lights as well 


as the objects on which they are flung ; whether 
a figure, or the sky, a white napkin, animals, or 
utensils, often introduced for this purpose only. 
It may be observed likewise, what a portion is 
strongly relieved and how much is united with 
its ground ; for it is necessary that some part 
(though a small one is sufficient) should be sharp 
and cutting against its ground whether it be 
light on dark, or dark on a light ground, in order 
to give firmness and distinctness to the work. 
If, on the other hand, it is relieved on every side, 
it will appear as if inlaid on its ground. 

" Such a blotted paper held at a distance from 
the eye would strike the spectator as something 
excellent for the disposition of the light and 
shadow though he does not distinguish whether 
it is history, a portrait, a landscape, dead game, 
or anything else ; for the same principles extend 
to every branch of art. Whether I have given 
an exact account or made a just division of the 
quantity of light admitted into the works of 
those painters is of no very great consequence ; 
let every person examine and judge for himself : 
it will be sufficient if I have suggested a mode of 
examining pictures this way and one means at 
least of acquiring the principles on which they 

The accompanying page of sketches has been 
produced in the spirit of this recommendation. 

Turning from examples of figure art, to out- 
door nature, it will be found that these principles 
apply with equal force to landscape composition. 
No better advice could be offered the beginner 
[ 159] 


in landscape than to resolutely select and pro- 
duce three, four or five distinct and separate 
tones in every study. The incoherency of begin- 
ner's work out of doors is largely due to its 
crumbling into a great number of petty planes, a 
fault resulting from observation of detail in- 
stead of the larger shapes. For this reason the 
choice of subjects having little or no detail 
should be insisted on : sky and land, a chance for 
organic line and a division of light and shade, 
such as may be found in an open, rolling country 
where the woodland is grouped for distant 



Under the discussion of Balance it was shown 
that a small measure often became the equiva- 
lent of a larger measure by reason of its particu- 
lar placement. The sacrifice of many measures 
to one, also is often the wisest disposition of 
forces. Upon the stage, spectacular arrangement 
is constructed almost entirely on this principle. 
The greater the number of figures supporting, or 
sacrificing to the central figure, the greater its 
importance. The sun setting over fields or 
through the woods though covering but a very 
limited measure of the picture is what we see 
and remember, the remaining space serving this 
by subordination. Note how masters of land- 
scape reach after such a point either by banking 
up abruptly about it as in the wood interior, or 
by vast gradations toward it. The muzzle of the 




The Same Subject Vertically and Horizontally Presented 


cannon is the only place where the fire and 
smoke are seen, but how much weight is neces- 
sitated back of this for the recoil, and how much 
space must be reckoned on for the projectile of 
the gun. A terrific explosion takes place; but 
we do not realize its power until it is noted that 
sound reverberated and the earth trembled for 
miles around. For its full realization the report 
of the quiet miles is important. The lack of tbis 
support in the light and shade scheme, whereby 
the principal object is made to occupy too much 
space is one of the commonest of faults in photog- 
raphy and illustration. 

One familiar with woodland scenery knows 
well how often a subject is lost and found as the 
sun changes in its course. At one moment a 
striking composition is present, the highest light 
giving kingly distinction to one of the monarchs 
of the forest. Passing on to return in a few 
minutes one looks in vain for the subject. He is 
sure of the particular spot, but the king stands 
sullen in the shadow, robbed of his golden man- 
tle which is now divided to bedeck two or three 
striplings in the background. For the painter 
the only recourse is to make a pencil note of the 
original scheme of light and shade and hold reso- 
lutely to it. The photographer must patiently 
wait for it. 

Says Reynolds : 

" Every man that can paint at all can execute 
individual parts ; but to keep these parts in due 
subordination as relative to a whole, requires a 
comprehensive view of art that more strongly 


implies genius than perhaps any quality what- 

No more forcible examples of this truth may 
be had than the art of Claude Lorraine. Claude 
whose nature painting Ruskin berates but whose 
composition is strong, had two distinct arrange- 
ments, both based on the principle of Principal- 
ity. In the first he created sides for the centre 
which were darkened so that the light of the 
centre might gain by contrast. It is the formal 
Raphael esque idea ; the other and much better 
one shows a division of the picture into thirds. 
The first division is given to the largest mass but 
usually not the most important. This, if trees 
or a building, is shadow covered, reserving the 
more distant mass, which is the most attractive, 
to gain by the sacrifice of the foreground mass. 

The first of these forms was evidently most 
esteemed by Claude, for his greatest works are 
thus conceived : " Cleopatra Landing at Tarsus," 
" The Embarkation of the Queen of Sheba," see 
page 161. " The Flight into Egypt," " St. Paul 
leaving Ostia," "The Seaport with the Large 
Tower " and others. In all of these the light 
proceeds toward us through an avenue which 
the sides create. Under this effect we receive 
the light as it comes to us. In the other form 
the vision is carried into the picture by a series 
of mass attractions the balance being less 
apparent. "The Landscape of the Dresden 
Gallery," " The Marriage of Isaac and Re- 
becca," " The Finding of Moses," " Egeria and 
Her Nymphs," and " Driving Cattle to the 


Meadows," together with many etchings, are 
based on the second form. In all these about 
one third of the picture is put into shadow, a 
great right angle being constructed of the ver- 
tical mass and the shadow which it casts, gener- 
ally across the entire foreground. 1 

In "The Travel of the Soul" by Howard 
Pyle, reproduced from the Century Magazine, 
is remarkably expressed the fullness of quality 
resulting from these few principles. The force 
of the light is increased first by juxtaposition 
with the deepest dark merging so gradually into 
the darkness behind as to become the end or 
culmination of the great gradation of the back- 
ground. As in many works by the older masters 
the source of light is conceived within the pic- 
ture, so by its issuance from the inward of the 
wing, the valuable principle of radiation has re- 
sulted, the light passing upward through the 
wan face behind to the crescent moon and below 
through the sleeve and long fold of the dress to 
the ground. On the side it follows the arm dis- 
appearing through the fingers into the shadow. 

Beyond this circuit lies the great encasement 
of another gradation darkening toward the sides 
and corners. This has been interrupted by the 
tree masses and sky of the upper side, as the 
idea of radiation was changed on the left by the 
oppositional line of branch forms. In the other 
pictures of this remarkable series may be found 
three distinct type forms of composition. 

Together they set forth the structure of the 
circle or ellipse, the letter S or line of beauty $ 

1 Page 176. 


the triangle, and the cross. The one before us 
discloses a triangle or letter Y, on which the 
figures compose, within a triangle formed of the 
rock fracture and path. 

It must be remembered that the effort of the 
artist is to secure light in the degree which his 
subject demands. There are many degrees of 
light and they must not be confounded. The 
light of a lantern is not sufficient illumination for 
an effect under gas and a window on the north 
side won't do to call sunlight into a room upon a 
posed figure. The fault of many pictures is that 
the proprieties just here are violated. Some of 
the lowest toned interiors of Israels are satis- 
factory when judged from the standpoint of 
light, while out of door attempts in high key 
fail to suggest the fact of a sun in nature. The 
fault is that the exact degree of illumination 
which the subject demands is not present. 

There may be a greater feeling of light in a 
figure sitting in the shadow than in the same 
figure next to a window. 

To the painter, light and air are but degrees of 
the same idea. If the figure seated in the shadow 
is well enveloped and relieved by the exact temper 
of reflected lights, it takes its place in his scheme 
of brilliant lighting as much as any other part. 

The purpose of shadow is first to produce 
light, second to secure concentration, third to 
dismiss space not required and incidentally to 
suggest air and relief by the gradation which 
every shadow must have. 

The idea of Notan, or the Light and Dark 


combination of Japanese art, differs from this in 
its intent, which is merely to set forth an agree- 
able interchange of light, dark and medium toned 
spaces. To the decorative intentions of the ori- 
ental artist natural fact is of small concern and 
the fact of shade produced by light is dismissed as 
are many other notions which are non-conforrn- 
able to his purpose. The great value of this 
concept, however, should be recognized, and 
in formulating a scheme of light and shade for 
any picture its light and dark masses may be so 
arranged as to suggest much of the beauty which 
its flat translation by Notan would yield. The 
practice of laying out the flat light and dark 
scheme of every picture which is to be finished 
in full relief is therefore most helpful, and 
directly in line with Sir Joshua's habit with the 
old masters. 

It is not sufficient that pictures have lights 
and darks. The balance here is quite as im- 
portant as line and measure. The proportion 
of light to dark depends on the importance 
required by certain parts of the picture. Ef- 
fectiveness is given to that end of the scale 
which is reserved in small quantity. The white 
spot attracts in the "Dead Warrior," 1 the dark 
spot in the " Lion of the Desert." 2 A comparison 
of the " Night Watch " 3 and the " Landscape " 4 by 
Inness will show that both are constructed on a 
medium tone on which strong relief is secured by 
contrasts of light and dark. Isolated spots occur 
through each contributing an energy opposed to 
the subtle gradations of the large spaces. The 

1 Page 161 . J Page 31. 3 Page 1 48. 4 Frontispiece. 
[I6 7 J 


rich depths of the background and the frequent 
opposition of shadow with light in the landscape 
are very typical of Inness' art and we know that 
the " Mght "Watch " contains the best thought 
and richest conclusions of the greatest master of 
light and shade. 

The type forms in light and shade are less pro- 
nounced than those of linear construction, though 
through all compositions of effect, certain well 
defined schemes of chiaroscuro are traceable. 
As soon as any one is selected it rests with the 
artist to vary its conventional structure and 
make it original. 

Lack of a well-defined scheme of light and 
dark however, is ruinous to any pictorial or 
decorative undertaking. 

The accompanying wood interiors are intro- 
duced in proof that light and shade rather 
than form is the pictorial element of greatest 
value. In both pictures the principles of chiaros- 
curo are strongly expressed, and we look closely 
before discovering that the first one is the second 
placed on end. 

Analysis of pictures into light, dark, and half- 
tone develops the following forms. 


Light being the happy and positive side of art 
presentation, any form or modification of it par- 
takes of its quality. The gradation bespeaks its 
tenderness, and, much as we may admire light's 
power, this, by its mere variety, is more attract- 





3. Low TIDE C. A. Palmer 






9. THE ARBOR Fcrrlcr 



11. LANDSCAPE Geo. Inness 

12. THE KITCHEN Whistler 




14. ST. ANGELA Robt. Reid 

15. AN ANNAM TIGER Surrand 


17. THE SHRINE Orchardson 

18. MONASTIC LIFE F. V . Du Mond 



"We well endure the shadow if in it can be no- 
ticed a movement toward the light. Technically, 
an ungraded shadow means mud. One in which 
reflection plays a part speaks of the life of light 
and in it we feel that promise. "We know it to 
be on its travels, glancing and refracting from 
every object which it touches. The shadows 
which it cannot penetrate directly, receive its 
gracious influence in this way and always under 
a subtler law which governs its direct shining 
by gradation. 

Most good pictures are produced in the medium 
range and the ends of the scale are reserved for 
incisive duty. A series of gradations in which 
the grace and flow of line and tone are made to 
serve the forcible stroke which we see, presents 
a combination of subtlety and strength. Again 
the art of Inness affords illustration. 

There are three forms of this quality: 1 that in 
which light shows a gradual diminution of 
power, as seen upon a wall near a window, or in 
white smoke issuing from a funnel ; that in 
which the color or force of a group of objects 
weaken as they recede, as may be observed in 
fog ; and that in which the arrangement secures, 
in disconnected objects a regular succession of 
graded measures. In each case the pictorial 
value of this element is apparent. The landscape 
painter may avail himself of it as the figure 
painter does of his screen, counting on the cloud 
shadow to temper and unite disjointed items of 
his picture. He makes use of it where leading 
lines are wanting or are undesirable, or to give 

1 Page 175. 


an additional accent to light by such contrast or 
to introduce a note of dark by suppressing the 
tone of an isolated object. Gradation is the 
sweetening touch in art, ofttimes making unity 
of discordant and unartful elements. The vision, 
will pierce the shadow to find the light beyond. 
It will dwell longest on the lightest point and 
believe this more brilliant than it is if opposed 
by an accent of dark which is the lowest note in 
a dark gradation. 

Turner and Claude often brought the highest 
light and deepest dark together in close oppo- 
sition through a series of big gradations of ob- 
jects, the most light giving device known in 
painting. The introduction of a shadow through 
the foreground or middle distance, over which 
the vision travels to the light beyond, always 
gives great depth ; another of the devices in 
landscape painting frequently met with in the 
work of Claude, Ruysdael, JSTolpe, Yandevelde, 
Cuyp, Inness, Wyant, Ranger, and all painters of 
landscape who attain light by the use of a graded 
scale of contrasts. A cumulative gradation which 
suddenly stops has the same force in light and 
shade as a long line which suddenly changes into 
a short line of opposed direction. They are both 
equivalent to a pause in music, awakening an at- 
tention at such a point, and only to be employed 
where there is something important to follow. 


It is the experience of all picture makers that 
under the limitations which special subjects im- 


pose they are often obliged to search for an 
equivalent with which to comply with the re- 
quirements of composition. 

If, for instance, in the arrangement of a picture 
it is fourd necessary to move an object a tree, 
figure or other item of importance, instead of ob- 
literation and repainting, the result is attained by 
creating an attraction on the side from which it 
is to be moved. 

By so doing the range of the picture is in- 
creased and its space seems to take in more than 
its limits presupposed : If an isolated tree stand- 
ing against a mass of trees, by opening the sky 
through that mass or by creating attraction of 
color or form therein, the vision is led to the far 
side of the object to be moved, which is thereby 
crowded out of its position in the balancing 

An object upon a surface may frequently give 
place to a dark or light variation of the surface 
itself which becomes an equivalent of attraction. 

Several objects may be made to balance with- 
out rearrangement though the marginal propor- 
tions of the picture are altered. The ship and 
moon 1 compose as an upright, but not in long 
shape without either the following line which 
indicates the ship's course; or an object of at- 
traction in the opposing half either in the dis- 
tance or foreground, much less being required in 
the latter than the former. The equivalent 
therefore of the leading line is the object on the 
farther shore. 

1 Page 43. 

[ '73] 


The necessity of either the one or the other is 
more clearly shown when the line from the boat 
swings in the opposite direction. 

An object may be rendered less important by 
surrounding it with objects of its own kind and 

An abrupt change in the direction of a line 
may have attraction equal to an object on that 

With two spaces of equal size, importance may 
be given to one of them by increasing its light ; 
by using leading lines toward it, by placing an 
accent upon it, by creating a gradation in it. 

Spots often become the equivalent of lines in 
their attractive value. 

A series of oppositional lines has more pic- 
turesqueness than the tangent, its equivalent. 

A gradation may have the equivalent attrac- 
tion of an object. 

A line in its continuity is more attractive than 
a succession of isolated objects. 

The attractive value of an object in the scale 
of balance may be weakened by moving it toward 
the centre or extending the picture on that side. 

Motion toward, either in intention or by action, 
is equivalent to balancing weight in that space of 
the picture to which the action is directed. 

Light is increased by deepening contiguous 
tones ; dark, by heightening contiguous tones. 

A still-life may be constructed on the same 
lines as any form on the vertical plane and many 
of the perspective plane of composition. 


Graded Light T'pon Surfaces. Cloud Shadows 



Light Graded by Atmospheric Density 

Gradation Through Values of Separated Objects 


Century Magazine 

THE TRAVEL OF THE SOUL After Hou-ard Pyle 



SINCE the time that photography laid its claim 
to be reckoned among the fine arts the attention 
of artists has been attracted first by the claim 
and thereafter, with acknowledgments, to the 

The art cry of the newly baptized had the 
vehement ring of faith and determination. Like 
the prophecy of the embryo premier it sounded : 
" My lords, you will hear me yet." 

The sustained interest of the " Photographic 
Salon " and the utterance of its exhibitors in the 
language of art, has long since obtained conces- 
sion to the claim for associate membership. To 
make this relationship complete became the 
effort of many writers of the photographic circle. 
"The whole point then," writes Prof. P. H. 
Emerson, B. A., M. D., of England, " is that what 
the painter strives to do is to render, by any 
means in his power, as true an impression of any 
picture which he wishes to express as possible. 
A photographic artist strives for the same end 
and in two points only does he fall short of the 
painter in color and in the ability to render so 
accurately the relative values, although this is to 
a great extent compensated by the tone of the 
picture. How then is photography superior to 
etching, wood-cutting, charcoal drawing? The 
[ 177] 


drawing of the lens is not to be equalled by any 
man. There is ample room for selection, judg- 
ment and posing, and, in a word, in capable 
hands a finished photograph is a work of art. 
Thus we see that the art has at last found a scien- 
tific basis and can be rationally discussed, and I 
think I am right in saying that I was the first to 
base the claims of photography as a fine art on 
these grounds and I venture to predict that 
the day will come when photographs will be ad- 
mitted to hang on the walls of the Royal 

Since the appearance of the above which comes 
as close to the real reason in question as its logic 
might intimate, but which is worth quoting 
from the prophecy which it contained, there 
have been many expressions of opinions by 
photographers. None, however, are more to the 
point than the following from the pen of Mr. F. 
H. Wilson : " When, fifty years ago, the new 
baby, photography, was born, Science and Art 
stood together over her cradle questioning what 
they might expect of her, wondering what place 
she would take among their other children. 
Science soon found that she had come with her 
hands full of gifts and her bounty to astronomy, 
microscopy and chemistry made her name blessed 
among these, her elder sisters. Art, always more 
conservative, hung back. But slowly jealous Art 
who first frowned and called the rest of her 
brood around her, away from the par venue, has 
let her come near, has taken her hand, and is 
looking her over with questioning eyes. Soon, 


without doubt, she will have her on her lap with 
the rest. 

" Why has she been kept out so long ? Almost 
from the beginning she claimed a place in the 
house beautiful of art. In spite of rebuffs 
she knocked at its doors, though the portrait 
painter and the critic flung stones at her from 
the house-top, and the law itself stood at the 
threshold denying her entrance. Those early 
efforts were not untinctured with a fear that if 
she should get in she would run the establish- 
ment, but the law long since owned her right, 
and instead of the crashing boulders of artistic 
dislike and critical indignation the volleys they 
drop at her feet now are mere mossy pebbles 
flung by similarly mossy critics or artist- bigots. 
Still, the world at large hears them rattle and 
does not give her the place and estimation she 
has won. 

" Art began with the first touch of man to shape 
things toward his ideal, be that ideal an agreeable 
composition, or the loftiest conception of genius. 
The higher it is the more it is art. Art is head- 
and-hand work and a creation deserves the name 
of art according to the quality and quantity of 
this expended on it. Simply sit down squarely 
before a thing and imitate it as an ox would if 
an ox could draw, with no thought or intention 
save imitation and the result will cry from every 
line, ' I am not art but machine work,' though 
its technique be perfection. Toil over arrange- 
ment and meditate over view-point and light, 
and though the result be the rudest, it will bear 


the impress of thought and of art. I tell you art 
begins when man with thought, forming a stand- 
ard of beauty, commences to shape the raw 
material toward it. In pure landscape, where 
modification is limited, it begins when the artist 
takes one standpoint in preference to another. 
In figure composition, where modification is 
infinite, it begins with the first touch to bring 
the model into pose. When he bends a twig or 
turns a fold of drapery the spirit of art has 
come and is stirring within him. What matters 
the process ! Surely it is time that this artistic 
bigotry was ended." 

The kernel lies in the sentence " when he bends 
a twig," etc., " the spirit of art has come." In 
other words when he exhibits choice and prefer- 
ence, when, in short, he composes. 

Kecognizing that composition was the only 
portal through which the new candidate for art 
recognition could gain an entrance into the circle 
of Art, the single effort of the past photog- 
rapher, viz. ; the striving for detail and sharpness 
of line, has been relegated to its reasonable place. 
A comprehension of composition was found to 
demand the knowledge of a score of things 
which then by necessity were rapidly discovered, 
applied and installed. Composition means sacri- 
fice, gradation, concentration, accent, oblitera- 
tion, replacement, construction of things the 
plate does not have, destruction of what it should 
not have. 

Supplied with such a magician's wand no 
effect was denied : all things seemed possible. 
[ 180] 


Gratified by recognition in a new realm the 
new associations should be strengthened. 
Whereas photography had been spanned by the 
simple compass of Mr. and Mrs. A. and their 
daughter, in figures ; or topographical accura- 
cies in landscape, revellers in the new art talked 
of Rembrandt and Titian, Corot and Diaz. To 
do something which should put their art in touch 
with these, their new-found brethren, was the 
thing ! A noble ambition, but only a mistaking 
of the effect for the cause. These men composed. 
The blurred outline, the vacant shadow, the sup- 
pressed corners, the clipped edges. This all 
means composition in the subduing of insistent 
outline, in the exchange of breadth for detail, in 
the centralization of light, in the suppression of 
the unnecessary. 

But no, the employment of these devices of 
the painter from the photographer's point of 
view of composition is not sufficient. Photog- 
raphy is now busy complimenting every school 
of painting under the sun. Yesterday it was 
Rembrandt's school. Now that is passed, and 
Carriere is better and to-morrow, perchance, it 
will be Raphael or Whistler or some Japanese, 
why not ? 

The one and only good sign which marks imi- 
tation is that it shows appreciation, and this of 
the standards is a good thing. Let each have its 
turn. Their synthesis may be you. 

But to a man of the professions or business 
whose time for study in these vast fields of the 
classics is so disproportionate to their extent 


and who, though supplied with search warrants 
and summons, still fails to make a capture, how 
ineffectual and wearying this chase after ideals 
subjective. Why not shorten your course ? 
Why not produce Kembrandts and Corots be- 
cause you apprehend the principles on which 
they work and anticipate a surprise in discover- 
ing, as by chance, that you have produced some- 
thing which recalls them. In this way and by 
these means there will be meaning in your claim 
of brotherhood. 

One may scarcely call an estimate in art mat- 
ters complete without an opinion from Mr. Eus- 
kin. "In art we look for a record of man's 
thought and power, but photography gives 
that only in quite a secondary degree. Every 
touch of a great painting is instinct with feel- 
ing, but howsoever carefully the objects of a 
picture be chosen and grouped by the photo- 
grapher, there his interference ends. It is not a 
mere matter of color or no color, but of Inven- 
tion and Design, of Feeling and Imagination. 
Photography is a matter of ingenuity : Art of 

On these lines however the philosopher of 
Coniston hardly proves his case. 

Invention and design, feeling and imagination 
are all a part of the photographer's suite. He 
employs them all. And these too are qualities 
the most artistic. Technique, which is manual 
and not spiritual, is the one point at which art 
and photography cannot coalesce. To Art's sen- 
tient finger-tips, Photography holds up only steel, 


wood and glass. Art therefore holds the win- 
ning cards. 

P. G. Hamerton, England's safest and surest 
critic of art, writing a generation ago on the 
" Relation between Photography and Painting," 
says : " But all good painting, however literal, 
however pre-Raphaelite or topographic, is full of 
human feeling and emotion. If it has no other 
feeling in it than love or admiration for the 
place depicted, that is much already, quite 
enough to carry the picture out of the range of 
photography into the regions of real art. 

And this is the reason why good painting can- 
not be based on photography. I find photo- 
graphic data of less value than hasty sketches. 
The photograph renders the form truly, no 
doubt, as far as it goes, but it by no means 
renders feelings and is therefore of no practical 
use (save for reference) to a painter who feels 
habitually and never works without emotion." 

It is very much to be questioned if Mr. Hamer- 
ton in the face of what has since been done with 
the camera by men who feel and are led by the 
emotional in art, would claim a distinction to the 
painter and deny that the photographic product 
was unaffected by the emotional temperament. 

A friend shows us a group of his pets, either 
dogs, horses or children, done by an "artist 
photographer." We find it strongly composed, 
evincing a clear knowledge of every point to be 
observed in extracting from the subject all the 
picturesqueness there was in it. We notice a 
soft painter-like touch, shadows not detailed 


simply graded aerial envelopment everywhere 

It would be pedantry for the painter to correct 
the expression of his friend and suggest that the 
man who produced the picture was not an artist. 
It is the product of a man who felt exactly as an 
artist would have felt; an expression of views 
upon a subject entirely governed by the principles 
of art, and the man who made it, by that sym- 
pathy which he exhibits with those principles, is 
my brother in art to a greater degree than the 
painter who, with youthful arrogance, throws 
these to the winds "mistaking," as has been 
cleverly said, " the will-o'-the-wisp of eccentricity 
for the miracle working impulse of genius." In 
whatsoever degree more of the man and less of 
the mechanics appear, in that degree is the result 
a work of art. 

The reliance of photography on composition 
has provoked an earnest search for its principles. 
The photographer felt safe in going to the school 
of painting for these principles and accepted 
without question the best book written for paint- 
ers, that by John Burnet, penned more than a 
century ago at a time when the art of England 
was at a low imitative ebb, and unduly influenced 
by imitation. This has been abundantly quoted 
by photographic teachers and evidently accepted, 
with little challenge, as final. 

The best things, discoverable to the writer, in 
the field of composition, have been by the photog- 
raphers themselves the best things as well as 
the most inane ; but in the face of so many re- 


suits that earnest workers with the camera pro- 
duce and continue to put forth, which cannot 
find a place in the categories of Art, it would 
seem that these preachments have been un- 
heeded, or were not sufficiently clear to afford 
practical guidance for whom they were intended. 
Mr. P. H. Robinson declares most strenuously lot- 
composition. "It is my contention," he says, 
"that one of the first things an artist should 
learn is the construction of a picture." On a par 
with this is the opinion of Mr. Arthur Dow, the 
artist, who declares that " art education should 
begin at composition." 

It is for lack of this that the searcher for the 
picturesque so frequently returns empty handed. 

f '85 J 

The Esthetics of Composition 


Breadth Versus Detail 


SUBJECTIVELY the painter and the photog- 
rapher stretch after the same goal. 

Technically they approach it from opposite di- 

The painter starts with a bare surface and cre- 
ates detail, the photographer is supplied there- 

Art lies somewhere between these starting 
points ; for art is a reflection of an idea and ideas 
may or may not have to do with detail. 

According to the subject then is the matter of 
detail to serve us. In the expression of character 
a certain amount of detail is indispensable ; by 
the painter to be produced, by the photographer 
saved. But detail is often so beautiful in itself ! 
and is not art a presentation of the beautiful, 
pleads the photographer. And the reply in the 
Socratic method is : " Look at the whole sub- 
ject : does the idea of it demand this detail ? " 

The untutored mind always sees detail. For 
this reason most education is inductive, but 


though the process is inductive, the goal is the 
eternal synthesis. It is the reporter who gathers 
the facts : the editor winnows therefrom the 
The artist must in time get on top and take 

this survey. Looking at any subject with eyes 
half closed enables him to see it without detail, 
and later, with eyes slowly opening, admitting 
that much only which is necessary to character. 

The expression of character by masses of black 
and white proves this. Bishop Potter is unmis- 
takable, his features bounded by their shadows. 
From such a start then it is a question of pro- 
cedure cautiously to that point where the greatest 
character lies, but beyond which point detail be- 
comes unnecessary to character. 

The pen portrait of Thackeray by Robt. Blum is 
a careful delineation of the characteristic head of 
the novelist set on shoulders characteristically 
bent forward and the body characteristically 
tall. What more can be told of Thackeray's per- 


sonality ? Would the buttons and the wrinkles 
of the clothing help matters ! No, as facts they 
would not, and when art has to do only with 
character, the simplest statement is the most 

Millet, at one time, was known as " the man 
who painted peasants without wrinkles in their 
breeches." Not because wrinkles were too hard 
for him, nor because they were not thought 
worth while, but because, in his effort to prune 
his picture of the unessentials, the wrinkles were 
brushed aside. 

When, however, art has to do with filling an 
entire space with something, and the clothing 
occupies a considerable part of it, what shall be 
done ? This changes the details of the question. 
Yet all portraits that hit hard in exhibitions are 
those conceived in simplicity, those in which the 
personality is what stops and holds us. 

There are certain large organic lines of drapery 
which the character demands, but beyond this 
point opinion divides authoritatively from the 
complete silence of obliteration to the tumultuous 
noisiness of " the whole truth." 

In the portraits by Carriere all detail is swept 
away, and the millinery artists are shocked. 
Simplicity should never compromise texture and 
quality. This side of the truth cannot prove 

"You have made my broadcloth look like 

two-fifty a yard and it really cost four," was a 

criticism offered by a young lady who posed in a 

riding habit. Such practical criticism is fre- 



quently necessary to bring the artist down from 
the top height observatory where he is absorbed 
with " the big things." 

Breath does not signify neglect of detail or 
neglect of finish ; it means simplification where 
unity had been threatened. It is seeing the big 
side of small things, if the small things cannot 
be ignored. 

The lighting of a subject has much to do with 
its breadth. A light may be selected that will 
chop such a well organized unit as the body into 
three or four separate sections, or one that pro- 
duces an equal division of light and shade seldom 
good. Shadows are generally the hiding-places 
for mystery ; and mystery is ever charming. 
None better than Kembrandt knew the value of 
those vague spaces of nothingness, in back- 
grounds, and in the figure itself, a sudden pitch 
from light and positiveness into conjecture. We 
hear in photography much of the " Rembrandt- 
esque effect," which when produced, proves to be 
just blackness. There can be no shadow without 
light, and Rembrandt's effort was to obtain this, 
rather than produce darkness. 

The feeling of light may also be broadly ex- 
pressed by a direct illumination. Here the 
shadow plays a very small part, and the subject 
is presented in its outline. Under such an effect 
we lose variety but gain simplicity. This brings 
us close to the region of two dimensions, the 
realm of Japanese art and mural decoration. 
The portraits of Manet, the decorations of Puvis 
de Chavannes, and the early Italians, display the 
[ 190] 


quality of breadth because of the simplicity of 
lighting which these subjects received. 

Breadth in the treatment of the figure may be 
obtained by graded light. If a shadow be pro- 
duced at the bottom of the picture sufficiently 
strong to obliterate both the light and shade of 
detail, and thence be made to weaken as it pro- 
ceeds upward and finally give place to light, 
where light is most needed, great simplicity as 
well as the element of variety will be the result. 

Thus, in the most effective treatment in mural 
decoration, one sees only the grand forms, the 
movement, the intention, those things which most 
befit the inner surface of the building being also 
those which bear the greater importance. The 
fact is used as an argument for the assumption 
that painting should, after all, be an art of two 
dimensions, length and breadth, reserving thick- 
ness and its representation, for sculpture. This 
robs painting of the quality of natural aspect, 
except under the single effect of absolutely direct 
lighting and ignores its development beyond the 
flatly colored representations of the ancient 
Egyptians, our American Indians and the Japa- 
nese, a development inaugurated by the Greeks 
and since adhered to by all occidental nations. 

The student who goes to nature and sees mass 
only, discarding all detail, will run the chance 
of being a colorist as well as a painter of breadth, 
two of the most important qualifications ; for if 
he refuses to be stopped by detail his intelligence 
will crystallize upon that other thing which at- 
tracts him. He will think the harder upon the 


simple relations of tones and the exact color. 
Slowly dexterity will add a facility to his brush 
and he will, while aiming at character, through 
breadth, unconsciously introduce characteristic 
detail. This is the hope of the new method 
which is now being introduced into the system 
of public school instruction. 

The scheme as developed by Mr. Dow is deco- 
rative rather than naturalistic, the aesthetic side 
with " Beauty," as the watchword being in 
greatest point. The filling of spaces in agree- 
able and harmonious arrangement does not de- 
mand strict acknowledgment to natural aspect. 
Indeed this is denied in most cases where the 
limitations of decoration are enjoined. With the 
first principle, truth, upon which all education 
rests, as the basis of such study, the nature part 
of this system will fall into its logical channels. 
If nature's largeness and simplicity contributes 
to its value, the&. nature should be consulted 
when she is large and simple. Studies of trees 
in gray silhouette, should be made at twilight, 
either of evening or early morning, when the de- 
tail, which is useless to the decorative scheme, is 
not seen. Under such conditions no slight or sacri- 
fice is necessitated. Nature then contributes her 
quantity directly and the student has no warrant 
in assuming to change her. There are times also 
when the face of nature is so varied that the 
most fantastic schemes of Notan are observed ; 
a harbor filled with sails and sea-gulls, a crowd 
of people speckling the shore, the houses of a 
village dotted over a hillside. Under a direct 


light these become legitimate subjects offered by 
nature herself to the scheme which, however, 
she only now and then honors. 

The system therefore accompanies the student 
but part way and leaves him still knocking at 
the door of the complete naturalistic presentation 
of pictorial art, a development which stretches 
into limitless possibilities by the use of the third 

Work in two dimensions by reason of its 
greater simplicity should naturally precede the 
complications involved in producing the com- 
pletely modelled forms of nature, and therein the 
argument for its use in the early stages of the 
student's development is a strong one. 


Breadth, so often accountable for mystery, 
leads to suggestiveness. It is at this point that 
graphic art touches hands with the invisible, 
where the thing merges into the idea. Here we 
deliver over our little two by four affair with its 
specifications all marked, into the keeping of 
larger hands which expand its possibilities. If 
then Imagination carries us beyond the limits 
of graphic art let us by all means employ it. 
Upon this phase of art the realist can but look 
with folded arms. The dwellers in the charmed 
world of Greek mythological fancy came on tip- 
toe to the borders only of the daily life of that 

The still-life painter has to do with fact, and 
for many other subjects also the fact alone is 


sufficient. It is generally so in portraiture where 
rendition of externals is attempted, but the por- 
trait may suggest re very and reflection, or, by 
intimate accessory, provoke a discursive move- 
ment in thought. 

The realist is a man of drawing and how to do 
it, of paint and putting it on, of textures and 
technique ; he is a painter ; and stops with that. 
But the maker of pictures would step to another 
point of sight. He would so aim as to shoot 
over the hilltop. He would hit something which 
he cannot see. 

Suggestion is both technical and subjective. 
There is suggestion of detail, of act and of fact. 
In producing the effect, instead of the detail, of 
a bunch of grass or a mass of drapery, we sub- 
stitute suggestion for literalism. 

Fortuny, as a figure painter, was master of this 
art, his wonderful arrangements of figures 
amongst drapery and in grasses bearing evidence. 
Here, out of a fantastic crush of color, will be 
brought to view a beautifully modelled hand and 
wrist which connect by the imagination only, 
with the shoulder and body. These however, 
are ready to receive it and like other parts of the 
picture are but points of fact to give encourage- 
ment to the quest for the remainder. The hide 
and seek of the subject, the " lost and found " in 
the line, the subsidizing of the imagination for 
tribute, by his magic wand stroke were the arti- 
fices by which Fortuny coquetted with nature 
and the public, fascinating the art world of his 


Fortuny, however, never took us beyond the 
bounds of his picture. It was his doctrine that 
avoidance of detail was artful ; that to carry the 
whole burden when imagination could be tricked 
into shouldering some of it was fool's drudgery. 
Millet, who was his antipode as a clumsy handler 
of his tools, declared himself fortunate in be- 
ing able to suggest much more than he could 

In one of the competitions at the Koyal 
Academy in England, the prize was awarded to 
that rendering of the expression of Grief which 
showed the face entirely covered, the suggestion 
being declared stronger than the fact. 

In the realm of suggestion however the land- 
scape artist has much the wider range. Who 
has not experienced the fascination of a hilltop ? 
The hill may be uninteresting on your side, 
but there is another. There is a path winding 
over it, telling of the passing of few or many ; 
your feet have touched it and imagination has 
you in her train, and you follow eagerly to the 
beck of her enchantment. 

Suppose the scene at twilight on one of the great 
plains of northern France where beets are the 
sole crop. A group of carts and oxen shut out 
the background and no figures are seen. If how- 
ever against the sky are the silhouetted forms of 
two handf uls of beets, the sight of a figure or even 
a part of him would seem unnecessary to a casual 
observer who wished to know if there was any 
one about. These inanimate things moving 
through the air mean life. The painter has ere- 


ated one figure and suggested the likelihood of 
others by these few touches. Herein \ve have 
the suggestion of a fact. The suggestion of an 
act, may further be developed by showing the 
figure, having already finished with the handful, 
bending to pick up others. Such a position 
would be an actual statement regarding the present 
act but a suggested one concerning the former, 
the effect of which is still seen. If then the 
figure were represented as performing something 
in any moment of time farther removed from 
that governing the position of the beets than nat- 
ural action could control, he has forced into his 
figure an accelerated action which ranges any- 
where between the startling, the amusing, and 
the impossible. 

The power of implied force or action by sug- 
gestion is the basis of the Greek sculptured art 
of the highest period. Much of the argument of 
Lessing's elaborate essay on the " Laocoon " is 
aimed at this point, which is brought out in its 
completeness in his discussion of Timomachus' 
treatment of the raving Ajax. " Ajax was not 
represented at the moment when, raging among 
the herds he captures and slays goats and oxen, 
mistaking them for men. The master showed 
him sitting weary after these crazy deeds of 
heroism, and meditating self-destruction. That 
was really the raving Ajax, not because he is 
raving at the moment, but because we see 
he has been raving and with what violence his 
present reaction of shame and despair vividly 
portrays. "We see the force of the tempest in the 


wrecks and the corpses with which it has strewn 
the beach." 

In the photographic realm of the nude, this 
quality is compulsory. We don't want to have 
offered us so intimate a likeness of a nude figure 
that we ask, " Who is she, or he ? " The general 
and not the particular suffices ; the type not the 
person. The painter's art contains fe\v stronger 
touches through this means than the incident of 
the sleeping senator in Gerome's "Death of 
C^sar" (page 176). 

In the suggestion of an idea, graphic and 
plastic art rise to the highest levels of poetry. 
The picture or the poem then becomes the sur- 
face, refracting the idea which stretches on into 

The dying lion of Lucerne, mortally pierced by 
the shaft, the wounded lion of Paris, striking 
under his forepaw the arrow meant for his de- 
struction are symbols memorializing the Swiss 
guard of Louis XVI, and the unequal struggle of 
France against Germany in '72. 

At the death of Lorenzo the arts languished 
and Michel Angelo's supine and hanging figures 
in his tomb are there to indicate it. 


Suggestion with its phantom guide-posts leads 
us through its varied mazes to the dwelling-place 
of mystery. Here the artist will do well to tarry 
and learn all the oracle may teach him. 

The positive light of day passes to the twilight 
of the moon and stars. 

[ W] 


What things may be seen and forms created 
out of the simple mystery of twilight ! 

Its value by suggestion may be known technic- 
ally to the artist, for through the elimination cf 
detail, the work is sifted to its essence and we then 
see it in its bigness, if it has any, and if not we dis- 
cover this lack. "When the studio light fails our 
best critic enters and discloses in a few moments 
what we have been looking for all day long. 

There should be in most pictures an opportunity 
of saying that which shall be interpreted by each 
one according to his temperament, a little place 
where each may delight in setting free his own 

To account for the popularity of many pictures 
in both color and black and white on any other 
ground than that of mystery seems ofttimes im- 
possible. The strong appeal made to all classes 
by subjects containing mysterious suggestion is 
evidenced by the frequency of awards to such in 
photographic and other competitions. 

The student of photography asks if blurred 
edges, empty shadows and vaporous detail mean 
quality. They certainly mean mystery, which 
when applied to an appropriate subject signifies 
that the artist has joined his art with the imagi- 
nation of the beholder. He has therefore let it 
out at large usury. 

A cottage near a wood may be a very ordinary 
subject at three in the afternoon, but at eight in 
the evening, seen in palpitating outline against 
the forest blackness or the low toned sky, it 
becomes an element in a scheme of far larger 


dimensions. The difference between the definite 
and indefinite article, when coupled with that 
house, is the difference in the quality of the art 
of which we speak. 

Mystery by deception is a misguided use of an 
art quality. 

In photography one man delights in the 
etching point and cannot stop until he has made 
a net work all over his plate and led us to look at 
this instead of his picture, which, if good, would 
have been let alone a clever device of throwing 
dust into our eyes. Another produces what ap- 
pears to be a pencil drawing, and a very good 
imitation some of them are, but at best a decep- 
tion. To make something look like something 
else is a perversion of a brilliant discovery in 
photographic processes, which offers the means 
for securing unity (and in this word lies every 
principle of composition) by adding to or sub- 
tracting from the first product. 

This may involve the destruction of two-thirds 
or three-fourths of the plate or it may demand 
many an accent subtly supplied before unity is 
satisfied, before the subject is stripped of its non- 
essentials or before it may be regarded complete. 
Let such good work go on and the other sort 
too, if you will, the stunts, the summersaults and 
the hoop performances, but in the dignity of 
photographic competitions give the deceptions, 
the imitations of other things, no standing or 

No one will deny the interest there is in a 

sensitive, flexible line and in the rendition of 



mass by line. But photography is an art deal- 
ing with finished surfaces of perfect modelling, 
and workers in this art should preserve the 
" nature " of their subject. The man who feels 
line had better etch or use a pencil. 


Breadth while fostering suggestiveness gives 
birth to simplicity ; a subjective quality. 

When applied to pictorial art, simplicity's first 
appeal is a mental one. We are attracted by 
neither technique nor color, nor things problem- 
atic to the painter ; but by his mental attitude 
toward his subject. If we determine that the 
result has come of elimination, that to produce 
it, much has been thrown away and that the 
artist prefers what he has left at a sacrifice, 
to what might have been, acknowledgment 
for this condensation is coupled with respect. 
There is however a type of simplicity, the Simple 
Simon sort, or an indisposition to undertake 
difficult things, which leads to a selection of the 
easy subject in nature. Having found some 
modest bit of charm, the Simple Simon turns 
and twists it to attenuation, with the earnest 
declaration that there is no greater quality than 
simplicity; but purposeful emptiness lifts its 
hands in vain for the baptismal sanctification of 
the poetic spirit. 

Where simplicity really serves the artist in his 
task is in those cases demanding the unification 
of many elements. 

In painting, Kubens and Turner thus wrought, 
[ 200 ] 


bringing harmony from an organ of three banks 
and a score of stops, setting themselves the task 
of strong men. 

"Whatsoever subject be projected, the quality 
of principality takes precedence over all others. 
This is the first step toward simplicity ; some one 
thought made chief; therefore some one object 
in the composition of quantities and some one 
light in the scheme of chiaroscuro dominant. 
With this determined, the problem which follows 
is, how shall principality be maintained and to 
what degree of sacrifice must all other objects be 
submitted. In the rapid examination of many 
works of art, those that appeal strongest will be 
found to be those in which the elements are 
simple, or, if complex, are governed by this 
quality through principality. 


Another bifurcation of simplicity is Reserve. 
In the simple statement of the returning Roman 
general : " I came, I saw, I conquered," all that 
the senate desired to know was stated and it 
gained force by virtue of what was left unsaid. 
Anything else might have gratified the curiosity 
of his auditors, but the man, in holding this 
secret, made himself an object of interest. 
Rembrandt has told us that the legitimate 
gamut of expression lies some distance between 
the deepest dark of our palette and its highest 
light. Expression through limitations is digni- 
fied, a quality which the strain to fill all limits 
sacrifices. It is the force quickly squandered by 


the young actor, who " overacts," disturbing the 
balance of forces in the other parts. 

Upon the pivot of Reserve the opposing creeds 
of the Impressionists and Tonists bear with most 
contention. The former would lash their 
coursers of Phoebus with unsparing hand from 
start to finish ; the latter prefer the " Waiting 4 
Race," every atom of force governed and in 
control, held for the opportunity, when increas- 
ing strength is necessary. It is the difference 
between aiming at the bull's-eye or the whole 

The recent tendency of illustration to produce 
a result in three or four flat tones is another 
voice proclaiming for reserve. The new move- 
ment in decorative art may rightly claim this 
acknowledgment to it. In the work of Jules 
Guerin it is interesting to note how the bit and 
bridle of these two factors of breadth have been 
applied to every stroke, now and then only, de- 
tail being allowed its say, and in but a still small 

With the large number of pictorial ideas now 
being recast in the decorative formula it is 
necessary to have a clear notion of the purpose 
and the limitations of decorative art, that this 
new art may not be misunderstood nor con- 
founded with the purely pictorial. 

Decoration is essentially flat. It represents 
length and breadth. It applies primarily to the 
flat vertical plane. It deals with the symbols of 
form, with fact by suggestion, with color in 
mass. It substitutes light and dark for nature's 
[ 202 ] 


light and shade. Conceptions evolved upon the 
flat vertical plane deal with pictorial data as 
material for heraldic quartering, with natural 
fact as secondary to the happy adjustment of 
spaces. Nature to the decorative mind presents 
a variegated pattern from which to clip any 
shape which the color design demands. 

The influence on pictorial art of the decorative 
tendency, has brought much into the pictorial 
category which has never been classified. 

The Rose Croix influence has witnessed its 
seed maturing into the art nouveau, and what 
was nurtured under the forcing glass of decora- 
tion has suddenly been transplanted into the 
garden of pictorial art. In consequence it would 
appear that the constitution of the latter re- 
quired amendments as being scarce broad enough 
to accommodate the newer thing. It is difficult, 
for instance, to reconcile the crowded and spot- 
ted surfaces in Mr. Maurice Prendergast's pic- 
tures, to the requirements of the balanced con- 
ception. It must be recognized however that 
their first claim for attraction is their color 
which is usually a harmony in red, yellow and 
blue, and when the crowds of people or buildings 
do not form balancing combinations they oft- 
times so fill the canvas as to leave excellent 
spaces, more commanding through their isolation 
than the groups choking the limits of the canvas. 
More often however these crowds may be found 
to hang most beautifully to a natural axis and to 
comply with all the principles of pictorial struc- 



In his park scene, showing several tiers of 
equestrians one above the other, the chief charm 
is the idea of continuous movement which the 
scene conveys. The detail, wisely omitted, if 
supplied would arrest the attention and a chal- 
lenge on this basis would follow. It would then 
be found that what we accepted as an impression 
of natural aspect we would demand more of as a 
finished picture. It is because it is more decora- 
tive than pictorial and because its pictorial parts 
are rendered by suggestion, that it makes so 
winning an appeal. 

The quaint and fascinating concepts of Mr. 
Bull in the range of animal delineation are all 
struck in the stamp of this newer mould, and the 
list is a constantly increasing one of the illustra- 
tors whose work bears this sign. 


The popular notion concerning pictures is that 
they should stand out; but as has been aptly 
said, " they should stand in " ; so stand as to 
keep their places within the frame and to keep 
the component parts in control. A single object 
straining itself into prominence through the great 
relief it exhibits, is just as objectionable as the 
one voice in a chorus heard above the rest. 

It is a law of light that all objects of the same 
plane receive identically the same illuminations. 
If then, one seems favored, it must be by suppres- 
sion of the rest. Now and then this is neces- 
sary, but that it occurs by this means and not by 
unnatural forcing must be evident. 
[ 206] 


It is not necessary for the artist to lift his 
sitter off the canvas by a forced light on the 
figure and an intense shadow separating him 
from the wall behind. 

Correggio knew so well to conserve breadth 
just here. Instead of this cheap and easy relief, 
he almost invariably chose to offset the dark side 
with a darker tone in the background, allowing 
the figure's shadow to melt inperceptibly into 
the back space. Breadth and softness was of 
course the result. 

Occasionally however a distinct attempt at 
relief may be witnessed in the work of good 
painters. Some of Valesquez' standing portraits 
are expressive of the painter's joy in making 
them " stand out." In all these pictures however 
there are no other objects, no items added to the 
background from which the figure is separated. 
The subject simply stands in air. In other words 
it is an entity and not a composition. 

The process technically for the subduing of re- 
lief is flattening the shadows, thus rendering the 
marked roundness of objects less pronounced. 
The envelopment of air which all painting should 
express, the detachment of one object from an- 
other, goes as far toward the production of 
relief as is necessary. 


But the enquiry is naturally made, " if decep- 
tion is undesirable, should the artist pause before 
he has brought his work to a complete finish ? " 
Finish is not dependent upon putting in every- 


thing which nature contains, else would art not 
be a matter of selection. Finish, though in- 
terpreted singularly by different artists as to de- 
gree, is universally understood to mean the same 
thing. Finish is the expression of the true rela- 
tions of objects or of the parts of one object. 
When the true relations or values of shade and 
color are rendered the work is complete. That 
ends it. The student for the first year or so 
imagines his salvation depends on detail and 
prides himself on how much of it he can see. 
The instructor insists on his looking at nature 
with his eyes half closed in the hope that he will 
take the big end of things. There is war be- 
tween them until the student capitulates, after 
which the instructor tells him to go as he pleases 
knowing with this lesson learned he will not go 

As a comprehensive example of finish without 
detail, one may take the works of Mauve which 
aim to represent nature as truly as possible in 
her exact tints. No one can observe any picture 
ever painted by this master and not be drawn 
down close to the ground that he may walk on 
it or elevate his head into the air and breathe it 
or feel it possible to send a stone sailing into its 
liquid depths ; but finish ! when we look for it 
where or what is it ? At the Stewart Gallery 
the attendant was accustomed to offer the visitor 
a magnifying glass with which to examine the 
lustre of a horse's eye or the buckles upon 
Napoleon's saddle, in the " Eeview of Cuirassiers 
at the Battle of Friedland " by Meissonier. These 
2 8 


items are what interested the great detailist and 
they are perfect ; but with all the intense effort 
of six close years of labor the picture has less 
real finish than any work ever signed by Mauve. 
The big thing in finish has been missed and I 
doubt if any artist or connoisseur has ever come 
upon this picture, now in the Metropolitan Mu- 
seum, without a slight gasp at the false relation 
of color existing between the green wheat, the 
horses trampling through it and the sky above 
it. The unity of these elements was the first 
step in finish and the artist with all his vast 
knowledge of little things never knew it. 

If then, perfect finish is a matter beyond de- 
tail, it follows it must be looked for elsewhere 
than at this end of nature. 

The average man soon takes the artist's inten- 
tion and accepts the work on this basis, think- 
ing not of finish nor of its lack, but of 
nature ; acknowledging through the sugges- 
tions of the picture that he has been touched 
by her. 

" During these moments," says John La Farge 
in his " Considerations on Painting," "are not the 
spectators excusable who live for the moment a 
serene existence, feeling as if they had made the 
work they admire ? " 

The argument then is that the master painter 
is one who selects the subject, takes precious care 
that its foundation quantities and qualities are 
furnished and then hands it over to any one to 
finish. That it falls into sympathetic hands is 
his single solicitude. 



" It requires two men to paint a picture," says 
Mr. Hopkinson Smith, " one to work the brush 
and the other to kill the artist when he has fin- 
ished his picture and doesn't know it." 


The Critical Judgment of Pictures 


"With the critic all depends on the right application of his 
principles in particular cases. And since there are fifty ingenu- 
ous critics to one of penetration, it would be a wonder if the 
applications were in every case with the caution indispensable 
to an exact adjustment of the scales of art." Leasing 1 a 



ART is a middle quality between a thought 
and a thing the union of that which is nature 
with that which is exclusively human." l 

For the every-day critic much of the secret 
lies in the proposition Art is Nature, with the 
man added ; nature seen through a temperament. 
Nature is apparent on the surface of pictures. 
We see this side at a glance. To find the man 
in it requires deeper sight. 

If a painter of portraits, has he painted the 
surface, or the character ? Has he gone halting 
after it, or has he nailed it : has he won with it 
finally ? Is he a man whose natural refinement 

1 Coleridge. 


proved a true mirror in which his sitter was re- 
flected or has the coarse and uneven grain of the 
artist become manifest in the false planes of the 
character presentation ? With respect to por- 
traits less than other subjects, can we expect to 
find them reflections of the artist's personality. 
But some of the ablest, while interpreting an- 
other's character, frequently add somewhere in it 
their own. The old masters rarely signed, feel- 
ing that they wrote themselves all through their 

The sure thing regarding the great portraitist 
is that he is a man of refinement. This all his- 
tory shows. 

Is our artist a genre painter: then does his 
mind see small things to delight in them, or to 
delight us if this, he is our servitor or little bet- 
ter, does he go at the whole thing with the sin- 
cerity of an artistic purpose and somewhere place 
a veritable touch of genius, or only represent one 
item after another until the whole catalogue of 
items is complete, careful that he leave behind 
no just cause for reproach ? Has the man digni- 
fied his subject and raised it to something above 
imitative art, or does he clearly state in his treat- 
ment of it that imitation is the end of art ? 

Is he a painter of historic incident ; then does 
he convince you that his data are accurate, or 
allow you to conjecture that his details are make- 
shifts ? Is the scene an inspiration or common- 
place? Has he been able to put you into the 
atmosphere of a bygone day, or do his figures 
look like models in hired costume and quite 


ready to resume their own clothes and modern 

Is he a painter of flowers ; then is he an artist 
or a botanist ? Is he a marinist ; then, as a 
landsman has he made you feel like one, or has 
he painted for you water that can be walked on 
without faith ? Has he shown you the dignity, 
the vastness, the tone, and above all the move- 
ment of the sea ? 

Is he a landscape painter ? Then is he in a 
position to assert himself to a greater degree 
than they all? The farther one may remove 
himself from his theme, the less of its minutiae 
will he see. The process of simplification is in- 
dividual. What he takes from nature he puts 
back out of himself. The landscape painter be- 
comes an interpreter of moods, his own as well 
as nature's, and in his selection of these he re- 
veals himself. Does he show you the kingdoms 
of the world from some high mount, or make you 
beliere they may be found if you keep on mov- 
ing through the air and over the ground such as 
he creates ? Does he make you listen with him 
to the soft low music when nature is kindly and 
tender and lovable, or is his stuff of that robust 
fibre which makes her companionable to him in 
her ruggedness and strength ? 

As the hidden forces of nature control man 
yet bend to his bidding electricity, air, steam, 
etc. so do the open and obvious ones which the 
painter deals with. They dictate all the con- 
ditions and yet somehow he governs. The dif- 
ferent ways in which he does this gives to art its 


variety and enables us to form a scale of relative 

The work of art which attracts us excites two 
emotions ; pleasure in the subject ; admiration 
for the artist. Exhibitions of strength and skill 
claim our interest not so much for the thing 
done, which often perishes with the doing, as for 
the doer. The poet with a hidden longing to ex- 
press or a story to tell, who binds himself to the 
curious limitations of the Italian sonnet, in giv- 
ing evidence of his powers, excites greater ad- 
miration than though he had not assumed such 

It is the personal element which has estab- 
lished photography and given it art character. 
Says J. C. Van Dyke, " a picture is but an auto- 
biographical statement; it is the man and not 
the facts that may awaken our admiration ; for, 
unless we feel his presence and know his genius 
the picture is nothing but a collection of in- 
cidents. It is not the work but the worker, not 
the mould but the moulder, not the paint but 
the painter." 

Witness it in the work of Michel Angelo, in 
both paint and marble. How we feel the man 
of it in Franz Hals, in Kembrandt, in Rubens, 
Yan Dyck, Yalasquez, Ribera and Goya, in 
"Watteau and Teniers, in Millet and Troyon, in 
Rousseau and Rico, in Turner, Constable and 
Gainsborough, in Fildes and Holl, in "Whistler, 
in Monet, in Rodin and Barnard, in Inness, in 
"Wyant and Geo. Fuller. 

Like religion, art is not a matter of surfaces. 


Its essence is to be spiritually discerned. It is 
the spirit of the artist you must seek ; find the 

"Back of the canvas that throbs, the painter is hinted and 

Into the statue that breathes the soul of the sculptor is bidden; 

Under the joy that is felt lie the infinite issue of feeling ; 

Crowning the glory revealed is the glory that crowns the re- 

Great are the symbols of being, but that which is symboled is 

Vast the create and beheld, but vaster the inward creator; 

Back of the sound broods the silence, back of the gift stands 
the giving; 

Back of the hand that receives thrill the sensitive nerves of re- 

[ 215 ] 



IF we recognize the manly qualities in a pic- 
ture, the work has at least a favorable introduc- 
tion. Farther than this point it may not please 
us, but if not, it should remain a question of taste 
between the artist and yourself ; and, concerning 
taste there is no disputing. It is just at this 
point that the superficial critic errs. Dislike 
for the subject, however ably expressed, is never 
cause for condemnation. The fair question to 
ask is, what was the artist's intention ? Its an- 
swer provokes your challenge ; " Is it worth the 
expression ! " If conceded, the real judgment 
begins. Has he done it ; if not wholly in what 
degree ? 

The question of degree will demand the 
patience of good judgment. There may be much 
or little sanity in condemning a picture owing to a 
single fault. It depends on the kind. There are 
errors of selection, of presentation (technique) of 
natural fact, and of art principle. We can excuse 
the first, condone the second, find small palliation 
for the third, but he for whom art principles 
mean nothing, is an art anarchist. 

Errors of selection are errors of judgment. A 
man may choose a subject which is unprofitable 
and which refuses to yield fruit ; and yet in his 



effort at reediting its elements he may have 
shown great skill and knowledge and may have 
expended upon it his rarest gifts fine technique 
and good color. The critic must read between 
the lines and blame the judgment, not the art. 
Feeble selection and weak composition will be 
more easily specified as faults than bad drawing 
and unworthy color. 

To the profession, the epithet " commonplace " 
weighs heavily against a work of art. Selection 
of what is fitting as an art subject means ex- 
perience. The "ungrateful" subject and bad 
composition are therefore likely to mark the 
nouveau in picture making the student fresh 
from the atelier with accurate drawing and true 
color and who may be full of promise, but who 
has become tangled with what the French term 
the soujet ingrat. Every artist has studies of 
this sort which contain sufficient truth to save 
them from being painted over as canvas, and 
most painters know the place for such the store- 
room. Exhibition of studies is interesting as 
disclosing the means to an end, and the public 
should discern between the intention of the 
" study " and of the picture. 

Herein lies the injustice of acquiring the 
posthumous effects of an artist and exposing for 
sale every scrap to be found. The ravenous 
group of dealers which made descent upon the 
Millet cottage at the death of that artist effected 
as clean a sweep as an army of ants in an Indian 
bungalow. In consequence we see in galleries 
throughout Europe and this country many trifles 


in pastel which are not only incomplete but 
positively bad as color. Millet used but a few 
hard crayons for trials in color suggestion, to be 
translated in oil. Some were failures in com- 
position and in most the color is nothing more 
than any immature hand could produce with such 
restricted means. To allow these to enter into 
any estimate of Millet or to take them seriously 
as containing his own estimate of art, or as in- 
trinsically valuable, is folly. 

The faults of selection may also be open to 
difference of opinion. "Who would want to 
paint you when no one wants to look at you ? " 
said an old epigrammatist to a misshapen man. 
" Not so," says the artist ; " I will paint you 
though people may not like to look at you and 
they will look at my portrait not for your sake 
but for my art, and find it interesting." 

The cult that declares for anything as a 
subject, its value dependent upon that which 
the artist adds, stands as a healthy balance to 
that band of literary painters which affected 
English art a generation ago, the school of 
Rossetti, Burne-Jones, and Maddox-Brown, who 
strove to present ideas through art. With them 
the idea was paramount, and the technical in time 
dwindled, the subject with its frequently ramified 
meaning, proving to be beyond their art expression. 

Again, the popular attempt to conceive in 
pictures that which the artist never expected us 
to find is as reprehensible in graphic as in 
musical art. There is often no literary mean- 
ing whatever in some of the best examples of 


both. Harmony, tone, color and technique pure 
and simple are the full compass of the intention. 
What this may suggest to the individual he is 
welcome to, but the glib dictum of certain 
preachers on art as to hidden intentions would 
indicate that they had effected an agreement, 
with the full confidence of the silent partner to 
exploit him. Beware of the gilt edged footnote, 
or the art that depends upon it. A writer of 
ordinary imagination and fluent English can put 
an aureole about any work of art he desires and 
much reputation is secured on this wise. 

In the presentation of a subject through given 
pictorial elements, the critic will know whether 
the most has been made of the opportunity. If 
the composition prove satisfactory and the theme 
as presented still fails to move the critic, he 
must shift from the scientific analysis to those 
qualities governing the artist subjectively. He is 
lacking in "temperament," and without tem- 
perament who in art has a chance ? With years 
in the schools and a technique of mechanical 
perfection he lacks the divine fire and leaves us 
cold. It is for the critic to say this, and herein 
he becomes a teacher to public and artist. 

The patron who agreed that a picture under 
discussion had every quality which the salesman 
mentioned and patiently heard him through but 
quietly remarked, " It hasn't that," as he snapped 
his finger, is the sort of a critic who does not 
need to know the names of things in art. He 
felt a picture should have snap, and if it did not, 
it was lacking. 

[ 2I 9] 


But beyond the presentation of a theme having 
in it the mark of genius, is that of workmanlike 
technique. The demand of the present age is 
for this. If a subject is not painted it will scarce 
hold as art. Ideas, composition, even color and 
harmony plead in vain ; the spirit of the times 
sits thus in judgment. 

The presentation also should be individual, the 
unmistakable sign of distinction. To be able to 
tell at a glance by this mark puts us on the foot- 
ing of intimate acquaintance. A difference ex- 
ists between this and the well-known mannerisms 
of individuals. The latter applies to special 
items in pictures, the former to the individual 
style of expression. An artist may have one 
way of seeing all trees, or the similarity of one 
picture with another may be because there is 
only one sort of tree that interests him, or one 
time of day when all trees attract his brush. la 
the first case he is a mannerist, in the other a 
worker in a chosen groove. It cannot be denied 
that many artists making a success in a limited 
range of subject consent to stop, and go no 
further, under pressure of dealers or the public. 
The demand for specialists has much more reason 
in science and mechanics than in art, which is or 
should be a result of impulse. 

Corot declared he preferred the low sweet 
music of early dawn and to him there was 
enough variety in it to keep him employed as 
long as he could paint ; but the thralldom of an 
artist who follows in the groove of a bygone suc- 
cess because if he steps out of it the dealer 
[ 220 ] 


frowns and will not handle his work, is pitiable, 
exposing to view year by year the remonitory 
canvas with such slight changes as newness de- 
mands. It would be a healthier sign in art if 
the press and public would applaud new ventures 
when it was clear that an artist, thereby, was seek- 
ing to do better things and perhaps find himself 
in a newer vein. But variety in art it is main- 
tained need not come of variety in the individual 
but of a variety of individuals. So Van Marke 
must paint cows, and Jacque sheep and Wouver- 
manns must be told by the inevitable white 
horse, and have the mere mention of the artist's 
name mean the same sort of picture every time. 
This aids the simplification of a many-sided ques- 
tion. The public, as Mr. Hamerton declares, 
hates to burden itself with names; to which 
might be added that it also hates to differentiate 
with any single name. A good portraitist in 
England one year exhibited at the Royal Acad- 
emy a wonderfully painted peacock. The people 
raved and thereafter he was allowed to paint 
nothing else. Occasionally it is shown that 
this discrimination is without reason, as many 
men rise above the restriction. The Gains- 
borough portrait and landscape are equally 
strong, the works of painters in marble, and 
sculptors who use color, have proved a surprise 
to the critics and an argument against the 
" specialty." 

There are two degrees in the subversion of the 
natural fact. 

If, for example, under the rule in physics, the 
[221 ] 


angle of incidence being equal to the angle of re- 
flection, it be found that a cloud in the sky will 
reflect into water too near the bottom of the 
picture, a painter's license may move it higher in 
its vertical line ; but if the same cloud is made 
to reflect at an angle several degrees to right or 
left, the artist breaks the simplest law of optics. 
The painter's art at best is one of deception. In 
the first case the lie was plausible. In the 
second case any schoolboy could have " told 
on " the artist. 

There are good painters who appear to know 
little and care less for physical fact. Their busi- 
ness is with the surface of the earth ; the whys 
and wherefores of the universe they ignore, com- 
placent in their ignorance until it leads them to 
place the evening star within the arc of the cres- 
cent moon, when they are annoyed to be told 
that the moon does not grow from this shape to 
the full orb once a month. But of ttimes, though 
the artist may not flout the universe, he shows 
his carelessness of natural fact and needs the 
snubbing. It is in this range that the little critic 
walks triumphantly posing as a shrewd and a 
discerning one. He holds up inconsistencies with 
his deft thumb and finger and cries, " what a 
smart boy am I." And yet in spite of him 
Rubens, for the sake of a better line in the fore- 
ground of one of his greatest compositions dares 
to reconstruct a horse with his head issuing from 
his hind quarters, allowing the tail to serve as 
the mane, and Turner kept on drawing castles 
all wrong. 

[ 222 ] 


But these critics have their place. Even Rus- 
kin accepted this as a part of his work. 

Tiiere are occasions, as every artist will admit, 
when the artless critic with his crude common- 
places is most welcome. 

As to the violator of art principles, his range 
in art must perforce be short, his reward a smile 
of pity, his finish suicide. Originality may find 
all the latitude it requires within the limits of 
Art Principles. 

Ruskin in his principles of drawing enumerates 
these as " Principality, i. e., a chief object in a 
picture to which others point : Repetition, the 
doubling of objects gives quietude : Symmetry de- 
velops solemnity, but in landscape it must be bal- 
anced, not formal. Continuity : as in a succession 
of pillars or promontories or clouds involving 
change and relief, or else it would be mere 
monotonous repetition. Curvature : all beautiful 
objects are bounded by infinite curves, that is to 
say, of infinitely changing direction, or else made 
up of an infinite number of subordinate curves. 
Radiation : illustrated in leaves and boughs and 
in the structure of organic bodies. Contrast : of 
shapes and substances and of general lines; be- 
ing the complement of the law of continuity, 
contrast of light and shade not being enough. 
Interchange : as in heraldic quartering. Con- 
sistency : or breadth overriding petty contrast 
and giving the effect of aggregate color or form. 
Harmony : art is an abstract and must be har- 
moniously abstracted, keeping the relations of 

[ 223] 


With the above principles of composition Mr. 
Ruskin aims to cover the field of architecture, 
sculpture and painting, and he declares there are 
doubtless others which he cannot define "and 
these the most important and connected with the 
deepest powers of art. The best part of every 
work of art is inexplicable. It is good because 
it is good." 

Mr. Hamerton enumerates the duties of the 
critic as follows ; " to utter unpopular truths ; to 
instruct the public in the theoretical knowledge 
of art ; to defend true living artists against the 
malice of the ignorant ; to prevent false living 
artists from acquiring an influence injurious to 
the general interests of art ; to exalt the fame of 
dead artists whose example may be beneficial ; to 
weaken the fame of dead artists whose names have 
an injurious degree of authority : to speak always 
with absolute sincerity ; to give expression to 
vicissitudes of opinion, not fearing the imputa- 
tion of inconsistency ; to make himself as 
thoroughly informed as his time and opportuni- 
ties will allow, about everything concerning the 
Fine Arts, whether directly or indirectly ; to en- 
large his own powers of sympathy ; to resist the 
formation of prejudices." The above require- 
ments are well stated for critics who, by reason 
of the authority of their position as press writers, 
are teachers of art. As to the personnel and 
qualifications of this Faculty of Instruction, inves- 
tigation would prove embarrassing. The shal- 
lowness of the average review of current exhibi- 
tions is no more surprising, than that responsible 


editors of newspapers place such consignments 
in the hands of the all-around-reporter, to whom 
a picture show is no more important than a fire 
or a function. Mr. Hamerton in his essay urges 
artists to write on art topics, as their opinions 
are expert testimony, a suggestion practically 
applied by a small group of daily papers in 
America. Says Mr. Stillman, " No labor of any 
human worker is ever subjected to such degrada- 
tion as is art to-day under the criticism of the 
daily paper.'' Probably no influence is more 
responsible for the apathy and distrust of the 
public regarding art than these reviews of exhibi- 
tions for the daily press. The reader quotes as 
authoritative the dictum of a great journal, seldom 
reflecting that this is the opinion of one man, 
who, with rarest exception, is the least qualified 
of any writer on the staff to speak on his theme. 
Such is the value which the average manager puts 
upon the subject. To review the picked efforts 
of a year, of several hundred men, a scant column 
is deemed sufficient. Howsoever honest may be 
the intention toward these, the limitations render 
the task hopeless, for all efforts to level the 
scales to a nicety may be foiled by the shears of 
the managing editor if perchance another petit 
larceny should require any part of the space. 

So the critic gives it up, mounts a pedestal, 
waves whole walls, aye galleries, to oblivion, and 
with the sumptuousness of a Nero, adopts the 
magnificent background, in the light of which for 
a moment he shines resplendent, as a gilded 
setting for his oracles. 




" FORTUNATE is he, who at an early age knows 
what art is." l 

Howsoever eloquent may be the artist in 
his work, it is convincing only in that degree to 
which his audience is prepared to understand his 
language and comprehend his subject. 

" The artist hangs his brains upon the wall," 
said the veteran salesman of the National Acad- 
emy, and there they remain without explana- 
tion or defense. The crowd as it passes, enjoys or 
jeers, as the ideas of this mute language are com- 
prehended or confounded. Art requires no apol- 
ogy and asks none ; all she requests is that those 
who would affect her must know the principles 
upon which she works. An age of altruism should 
be able to insure to the artist sufficient culture 
in his audience so that his language be under- 
stood and that his speech be not reckoned as an 
uncertain sound. The public should form with 
him an industrial partnership, not in the limited 
sense of giving and taking, but of something 
founded on comprehensibility. 

What proportion of the visitors to an annual 
exhibition can intelligently state the purpose of 
impressionism, or distinguish between this and 

1 Goethe 
[ 226] 


tonal art ; what proportion think of art only as it 
exploits a " subject " or " tells a story " ; how many 
look at but one class of pictures and have no in- 
terest in the rest; how many go through the 
catalogue with a prayer-book fidelity, and know 
nothing of it all when they come out ! How 
many know enough to hang the pictures in their 
own houses so that each picture is helped and 
none damaged ? 

Could it be safely inferred that every collector 
of pictures kno\vs and feels to the point of giving 
a reason for his choice of pictures, or even reason- 
able advice to a friend who would also own 
pictures ? Is not much of what is bought taken 
on the word of a reliable dealer and owned in 
the satisfaction of its being " all right," and per- 
haps " safe," as an investment ? Is it unreason- 
able to ask the many sharers in the passing picture 
pleasures of a great city to make themselves 
intelligent in some other and more practical way 
than by contact, gleaning only through a life- 
time what should have been theirs without delay 
as a foundation / and to exchange for the vague 
impression of pleasure, defended in the simple 
comfort of knowing what one likes, the enjoyment 
of sure authority and a reason for it. 

The best of all means for acquiring art sense is 
association ; first, with a personality ; second, 
with the product. The artist's safest method 
with the uninitiated is to use the speech which 
they understand. In conversation, artists, as 
a rule, talk freely, and one may get deeper 
into art from a fortnight's sojourn with a group 


of artists than from all the treatises ever written 
on the philosophy of art. The most successful 
collectors of pictures know this. They study 
artists as well as pictures. But on the other 
hand must it not also be conceded that acquaint- 
ance with fine examples of art is in a fair way of 
cultivating the keen and intelligent collector in 
the pictorial sense to a degree beyond that of 
those artists whose associations are altogether 
with their own works or with those who think 
with them, who must of necessity believe most 
sincerely in themselves and who are thus obliged 
to operate in a groove, and with consequent bias. 
For this reason association should be varied. No 
one has the whole truth. 

Music scores a point beyond painting, in neces- 
sitating a personality. We see the interpreter 
and this intimacy assists comprehension. But 
howsoever potent is association with art and 
artist, one may thus never get as closely in touch 
with art as by working with her. The best and 
safest critic is of course one who has performed. 
Experts are those persons who have passed 
through every branch and know the entire " busi- 

The years of toil to students who eventually 
never arrive are incidentally spent in gaining the 
knowledge to thus know pictures, and though the 
success of accomplishment be denied, their com- 
pensation lies in the lengthened reach of a new 
horizon which meantime has been opened to 

"Whether the picture be found in nature 



and is to be rescued, as is the bas-relief from its 
enveloping mould, cut out of its surroundings by 
the four sides of the canvas and brought indoors 
with the same glow of triumph as the geologist 
feels in picking a turquoise out of a rock at which 
others had stared and found nothing; or 
whether it be found, as one of many in a collec- 
tion of prints or paintings ; or whether the recog- 
nition be personal and asks the acceptance of some- 
thing wrought by one's own hand to know a 
picture when one sees it this is art sense. 
Backed by a judgment presenting a defense to 
the protests of criticism, it becomes art knowl- 

To find and preserve pictures out of the maze 
of nature is the labor of the artist : to recognize 
them when found, the privilege of the connois- 

The guileless prostrations which the many 
affect regarding art judgments evoke the same 
degree of pity as the assertion of the beggar that 
he needs money for a night's lodging when you 
and he know that one is awaiting him for the ask- 
ing at the Bureau of Charities. The many de- 
clare they know nothing about art, the while 
having an all around culture in the humanities, 
in literature, poetry, prose composition, music, 
aesthetics, etc. The principles of all the arts be- 
ing identical, how simple would it be to apply 
those governing the arts which one knows to 
what is unknown. The musician and poet make 
use of contrast, light and shade, gradation, an- 
tithesis, balance, accent, force by opposition, iso- 
[ 229] 


lation and omission, rhythm, tone-color, climax, 
and above all unity and harmony. 

Let the musician and him who knows literature 
challenge the work of art for a violation of any of 
these and the judgment which results may be ac- 
cepted seriously ; and yet the essence lies beyond 
with nature herself. It is just here that the 
stock writer of the daily paper misses it. He 
may have science enough, but lacks the love, the 
revelation through communion. 

But, with this omitted, critical judgment is 
safer in the hands of a person of broad culture, 
who knows nothing of the tools of painting and 
sculpture, than when wielded by a half-educated 
student of art with his development all on one 
side. Ruskin warns us of young critics. 

As a short cut, the camera fills a place for the 
many who feel pictures and wish to create them, 
but at small cost of time and effort. A little art 
school for the public has the small black box be- 
come, into which persons have been looking 
searchingly and thoughtfully for the past dozen 
years. To those who have thus regarded it and 
exhibit work in competition, revelations have 
come. Non-composition ruins their chances. 
Good composition is nine-tenths of the plot. 
When this is conceded the whole significance of 
their art is deepened. Then and not until then 
does photography become allied with art, for this 
is the only point at which brains may be mixed 
with the photographic product. 

Any one who has experienced a lantern slide 
exhibition of art, where picture after picture fol- 


lows rapidly and the crowd expresses judgment 
by applause, will not long be in doubt what pic- 
tures make the strongest appeal. The " crowd ?> 
applauds three types; something recognized as 
familiar, the " happy hit," especially of title, and, 
(not knowing why) all pictures, without regard 
to subject, which express unity. The first two 
classes are not a part of this argument, but 
of the last, the natural, spontaneous attraction 
of the healthy mind by what is complete through 
unity contains such reason as cannot be ignored. 
Subjects of equal or greater interest which an- 
tagonize unity fall flat before this jury. 

There is no opportunity more valuable to the 
amateur photographer than the lantern slide ex- 
hibition, and the fact that even now no more 
than ten or twelve per cent, of what is shown is 
pictorially good should provoke a search for the 

For the student, to fill the eye full of good 
compositions and to know why good, is of equal 
value with the study of faulty composition to 
discover why bad. 

The challenge of compositions neither good 
nor bad to discover wherein they could be 
improved is better practice than either. 

This is the constant exercise of every artist, 
the ejection of the sand grains from his easy run- 
ning machinery. 

Before photography became a fashion it was 

the writer's privilege to meet a country physician 

who had cultivated for himself a critical picture 

sense. The lines of his circuit lay among the 



pleasantest of pastoral scenes. Stimulated by 
their beauty it became his habit, as he travelled, 
to mark off the pictures of his route, to note 
where two ran together, to decide what details 
were unnecessary, or where, by leaving the high- 
way and approaching or retiring he discovered 
new ones. After a time he bought a Claude 
Lorraine glass. It was shortly after this pur- 
chase that I met him. His enthusiasm was de- 
lightful. With this framing of his views his 
judgment grew sensitive and as he showed these 
mirrored pictures to friends who rode with him 
he was most particular at just what point he 
stopped his horse. The man for whom picture 
galleries were a rarity, talked as intelligently 
upon the fundamental structure of pictures as 
most artists. 

" I buy the pictures of Mauve," remarked a 
clergyman in Paris, " because he puts into them 
what I try to get into my sermons ; simplicity, 
suggestiveness and logical sequence." 




IN viewing a picture exhibition the average 
man, woman and child would be attracted by 
different aspects of it ; the man by the tone 
of the pictures, the woman by their color, 
the child almost wholly by the form or subject. 
The distinction is of course epigrammatic, but 
there is a basis for it in the daily associations of 
each of the three, the man with the conventional 
appointments of his dress and his business equip- 
ment, the woman with her gowns, her house 
decorations and flowers, the child with the 
world of imagination and fancy in which he 

The distinction has much to do with the 
method and the degree of one's aesthetic devel- 
opment. That a picture must have a subject 
is the first pons asinorum to be crossed, the child 
usually preferring to remain on the farther side. 
The delight in color belongs to the lighter, freer 
or more barbaric part of the race. Tone best 
fits the sobriety of man. 

The distinction is the difference in preference 
for an oak leaf as it turns to bronze, and a maple 
as it exchanges its greens for yellow and scarlet. 

In the latter case two primaries are evolved 
from a secondary color and in the other a 


tertiary from a secondary. In the case of the 
oak bronze there is more harmony, for the three 
primaries are present. 

In the case of the yellow and red, there is con- 
trast and effect, but less harmony, since but two 
primaries appear. 

As the walls are studied that sort of color art 
is found to be most conspicuously prominent 
which is in the minority and probably one's 
unsophisticated choice, from the point of view of 
color, would be that which has the distinction of 
rarity, as the red haired woman is at a premium 
in the South Sea isles. If, however, the tonal 
and the coloresque art were in even interchange, 
the former would have much of its strength 
robbed, to the degree of the excessive color of 
its neighbors. If, however, the pictures of tone 
and of color, instead of being hung together were 
placed apart, it would be found that the former 
expressed the greater unity and presented a 
front of composure and dignity and that the 
varied color combinations would as likely quar- 
rel among themselves as with their former neigh- 

That a just distinction may be had between 
tonal and coloresque and impressionist art, the 
purpose of each must be stated. The " tonist " 
aims primarily at unified color, to secure which 
he elects a tone to be followed, which shall 
dominate and modify every color of his subject. 
This is accomplished by either painting into 
a thin glaze of color, administered to the whole 
canvas so that every brushful partakes of some 
[ 2 34] 


of it ; or by modifying the painting subsequently 
by transparent glazes of the same tone. 

The conscientious impressionist, on the con- 
trary, produces harmony by juxtapositions of 
pure color. Harmony results when the three 
primary colors are present either as red, yellow 
and blue or as a combination of a secondary and 
primary : green with red, orange with blue or 
purple with yellow. 

The impressionist goes farther, knowing that 
the complementary of a color will tend to 
neutralize it, supplying as it does the lacking 
element to unity, he creates a vivid scheme 
of color on this basis. In representing therefore 
a gray rock he knows that if red be introduced, a 
little blue and yellow will kill it, and the three 
colors together at a distance will produce gray. 
Instead, therefore, of mixing upon his palette 
three primaries to produce the tertiary gray, he 
so places them on the canvas that at the proper 
distance (though this consideration is of small 
concern to him) the spectator will mix them 
which he often does. The advantage of this 
method of color presentation lies in the degree of 
purity which the pigment retains. Its disad- 
vantage appears in its frequent distortion of fact 
and aspect of nature, sacrificed to a scientific 
method of representation. An estimate of im- 
pressionism is wholly contained in the reply 
to the question, " Do you like impressions ? Yes, 
when they are good ; " and in the right hands 
they are. 

They are good onlv when the real intention of 



impressionism has been expressed, when the syn- 
thesis of color has actually produced light and 
air, and an impression of nature is quickened. 
But the voice from the canvas more frequently 
cries " nature be hanged but this is impression- 

The little people of impressionism finding it 
possible to represent more light than even 
nature shows in very many of her aspects, 
delight in exhibiting the disparity existing be- 
tween nature and, forsooth, impressionism. Thus 
we see attempts to " knock out " with these 
scientific brass knuckles all those who refuse to 
fight with them. The rumpus grows out of the 
different attitudes in which nature is approached. 

The one, drawn by her beauty, kneels to her, 
touching her resplendent garments; the other 
grasps her with the mailed hand, bedecking her 
with a mantle of his own. The knights wooing 
the same mistress are therefore lorn rivals. 

For effect, no one can deny that produced by 
the savage in war paint and feathers is more 
startling than the man wearing the conventional 
garb of civilization, or that the stars and stripes 
have greater attraction than the modified tones 
of a gobelin tapestry or a Persian rug. We put 
the flag outside the building but the daily course 
of our lives is more easily spent with the tapestry 
and rug. 

An " impression " l among tonal pictures ap- 

1 The term Impressionism applies properly to a scheme of 
juxtaposed colors and not to the impression of a scene in place of 
its actual rendition, as may be produced by the artist in mono- 

[ 236 ] 


pears as foolish as a tonal picture among impres- 
sions and the sane conclusion is that the at- 
tempt to combine them should not be made. 

The clear singing tones of the upper register 
are better rendered under this formula than by 
any other, but the feeling of solidity and the 
tonal depth of nature are qualities which it com- 
promises. Impressionism expresses frankly by 
the use of smaller methods what the tonists at- 
tain by larger and freer ones. The individual 
must decide whether he prefers to tell the time 
as he watches the movement of the works or will 
take this for granted if he gets the result. 

For charm in color no one will deny that in 
the works of old masters this is found in greater 
degree than in painting of more recent produc- 
tion, and the reason is, not because the pigments 
of the fourteenth century are better than ours, 
but it is to be found in the alterative and refin- 
ing influences of time and varnish, which have 
crowned them with the glorious aureole of the 

Guided by this fact the modern school of ton- 
ists seeks to shorten the period between the date 
of production and this final desirable quality, by 
setting in motion these factors at once. They 
therefore paint with varnish as a medium, multi- 
plying the processes of glazing with pure color 
so that under a number of surfaces of varnish 
the same chemical action may be precipitated 
which in the earlier art came about with but few 
exceptions as a happening through the simple 
necessary acts of preservation. The consequence 
[ 2 37] 


of this adoption of kindred processes is that the 
tonal pictures and the old masters join hands 
naturally and can stand side by side in the gal- 
lery of the collector. 

This, though a wholly practical reason for the 
growing popularity of tonal art is one of the 
powerful considerations for the trend from that 
sort which is liable to create discord. The 
simplest illustration of harmony, and unity and 
tone may be had in nature herself, for though 
these qualities have their scientific exposition, 
the divisions of the color scale are not so easily 
comprehended by many people as the chart 
which may be conceived in extended landscape. 
The sky, inasmuch as it spreads itself over the 
earth and reflects its light upon it, dictates the 
tone of the scene. The surface of the lake re- 
veals this fact beyond dispute, for the water takes 
on any tone which the sky may have. The 
sky's power of reflection is no less potent in the 

Keflection is observable in that degree in 
which the surface, reflected upon, is rough or 
smooth. The absorbent surface allows the light 
to fall in and disappear and under this condition 
we see the true or local color. Note, for ex- 
ample, the effect of light on velvet or the hide of 
a cow in winter. "When the hair points toward 
the light the mass is rich and dark, but when it 
turns away in any direction its polished surface 
reflects light, which like the lake becomes a mir- 
ror to it. 

Light falling upon a meadow will influence it 


by its own color only in those places where the 
grass is turned at an angle from its rays. 

From these few observations it becomes obvi- 
ous that unity of tone is a simple matter when 
understood by the painter and that unity, being 
a most important part of his color scheme, may 
be increased by additions of objects bearing the 
desirable color which nature fails to supply in 
any particular subject. Thus if the day be one 
in which a warm mellow haze pervades the air, 
those tones of the sky repeated upon the backs 
of cattle, a roadway, clothing, or what not, may 
effect a more positive tonality than the lesser 
items would give which also reflect it. Herein 
then is the principle of Tonality : That all parts 
of the picture should be bound together by the 
dominating color or colors of the picture. 

With the indoor subject the consideration is 
equally strong. Let the scheme be one as color- 
esque as the Venetian school took delight in, vivid 
primaries in close juxtaposition (see small repro- 
duction in Fundamental forms The Cross, page 
17). The central figure, that of St. Peter is 
clothed in dark blue with a yellow mantle. The 
Virgin's dress is deep red, her mantle a blue, 
lighter than that of Peter's robe. Through 
the pillars is seen the blue sky of still lighter 
degree. Thus the sky enters the picture by 
graded approaches and focalizes upon the central 
figure. In like manner do the light yellow 
clouds repeat their color in the side of the 
building, in the yellow spot in the flag and 
the mantle of the central figure. The red of 


the Virgin's robe and the yellow mantle to- 
gether form a combination of a yellow red 
in the flag, the blue and red of the central 
figures become purple and garnet in the surplices 
of the kneeling churchmen and doges. The rep- 
etition of a given color in different parts of the 
figure is pushed still further in the blue gray hair 
of the kneeling figures, the red brown tunics of 
the monks and the yellow bands upon the dra- 

In the picture by Henry Ranger (page 120) 
(the crossing of horizontals effected without a 
line), a canvas in which the color is particularly 
reserved and gray, the tone is created by pre- 
cisely the same means. The cool gray and warm 
white clouds are reflected into the water and 
concentrated with greater force in the pool in 
the foreground, the greens and drabs of the 
bushes being strikingly modified by both of the 
tones noted in the sky. In landscape a cumula- 
tive force may be given the progress of the sky 
tones by the use of figures, the blue or gray of 
the sky being brought down in stronger degree 
upon the clothing of the peasant, his cart or farm 
utensils. Just here inharmony easily insinuates 
itself through the introduction of elements hav- 
ing no antiphonal connection. 

Fancy a single spot of red without its echo. 
Our sense of tonal harmony is unconsciously 
active when between two figures observed too 
far away for sight of their faces we quickly make 
our conclusions concerning their social station, 
if one be arrayed in a hat trimmed with purple 
[ 240] 


and green, a garnet waist and a buff skirt, while 
the other, though dressed in strong colors ex- 
presses the principles of coloration herewith de- 
fined. The purple and green hat may belong to 
her suit if their colors be repeated by modifica- 
tion, in it ; or the garnet and buff become the 
foundation for unity if developed throughout the 
rest of the costume. 

The purchaser of a picture may be sure of the 
tone of his new acquisition if he will hang it for 
a day or two upside down. This is one of the 
simplest tests applied by artists, and many things 
are revealed thereby. Form is lost and the only 
other thing remains color. 

Harmony being dependent only on the interre- 
lations of colors, their degree or intensity are im- 

On this basis it is a matter of choice whether 
our preference be for the coloresque or the more 
sober art. 

It must however be borne in mind that the 
danger lies in the direction of color. Inharmony 
is more frequently found here than in the picture 
of sober tone. 

Precisely the same palette is used to produce 
an autumnal scene on a blue day, when the colors 
are vivid and the outline on objects is hard and 
the form pronounced, as on an overcast day with 
leaden clouds and much of the life and color 
gone from the yellow and scarlet foliage. 

The reason why chances for harmony in the 
first are less than in the second is that the syn- 
thetic union of the colors is not as obvious or 


as simple as in the latter, in which to produce the 
gray sky, red and yellow have been added to the 
blue, and the sky tones are more apparently 
added to the bright hues by being mixed into 
dull colors upon the palette. The circle of har- 
mony is therefore more easily apparent to our 

It is for this reason that tonality is more easily 
understood when applied to the green and cop- 
per bronze of the oak tree against a cool gray 
sky than the red and yellow hillside and the blue 


Another important consideration in an estimate 
of a picture is its truth of values. The color may 
be correct and harmonious but the degree of its 
light and shade be faulty. This is a consider- 
ation more important to the student than the 
connoisseur as but few pictures see the light of an 
exhibition which carry this fault. It is the one 
most dwelt upon in the academies after the form 
in outline has been mastered. On it depends the 
correctness of surface presentation. If, for in- 
stance, the values of a face are false, the character 
will be disturbed. This point has been made 
evident to all in the retouching, which many 
photographs receive. Likeness is so dependent 
on those surfaces connecting the features or upon 
the light and shade of the features, that any 
tampering with them in a sensitive part is ruin- 

Values represent the degree of light and shade 
[ 242 ] 


which the picture demands, the relations of one 
part to another on the scale assumed. Thus with 
the same light affecting various objects in a room, 
if one be represented as though illumined by a dif- 
ferent degree of light it is out of value ; or, in a 
landscape, if an object in the distance is too strong 
in either color or degree of light and shade for its 
particular place in perspective, it is out of value. 
There are therefore values of color and of chiar 
oscuro, which may be illustrated in a piece of 
drapery. A light pink silk will be out of value 
in its shadow if these are too dark for the degree 
of light represented, and out of color value, if, in- 
stead of a salmon tone in the crease which a re- 
flection from the opposing surface of the fold 
creates, there be a purplish hue which properly 
belongs to the outer edge of the fold in shadow, 
where, from the sky or a cool reflecting surface 
near by, it obtains this change of color by reflec- 

The most objectionable form of false values is 
the isolated sort, whereby the over accentuation 
of a part is made to impress itself unduly ; " to 
jump " in the technical phraseology of the school. 

The least objectionable and often permitted 
form is that where a large section is put out of 
its value with the intent of accenting the light 
of a contiguous part. 

In landscape the whole foreground is fre- 
quently lowered in tone beyond the possibility 
of any cloud shadow, for the sake of the light 
beyond, which may be the color motif of the pic- 
ture and which thereby is glorified. 
[ 243 ] 



ALLIED to values is the idea of envelopment : 
of a kindred notion to this is aerial perspective. 
On these two depends the proper presentation of 
a figure in air. 

If at any place on the contour of a figure the 
background seems to stick, the detachment from 
its surroundings, which every figure should have, 
is wanting. 

The reason for it is to be found in a false value 
which has deprived it of rotundity of envelop- 

The solid object which resists the attempt to 
put one's hand around it or to stretch beyond into 
the background, lacks this quality. A fine dis- 
tinction must be here drawn between simple en- 
velopment and relief, which is a more positive 
and less important quality. 

However flatty and in mass figures may be 
conceived, the impression of aerial envelopment 
must be unmistakable. Here a nice adjustment 
of values or relative tones will accomplish it. 

Naturally, the greater space between the spec- 
tator and an object, the more air will be present. 
To the painter the color of air is the color of the 
sky. This then will be mixed with the local 
color of the object, giving it atmosphere. 


Envelopment is unmistakably represented by 
the out of door Dutch painters, for in the low 
countries atmosphere is seen in its density, and at 
very short range. Holland is therefore an ideal 
sketching ground for the painter and the best in 
the world for the student, since the ideas of 
values and envelopment are ever present. In 
this saturated air the minute particles of mois- 
ture which, in the case of rain or fog can affect 
the obliteration of objects, partially accomplishes 
it at all times, with the result that objects seem 
to swim in atmosphere. 

In such a landscape perspective of value and 
color is easily observed, making positive the 
separation of objects. The painter, under these 
conditions, is independent of linear perspective to 
give depth to his work, which being one of the 
cheap devices of painting he avoids as much as 

It is because aerial perspective is paintable and 
the other sort is not that artists shun the clear 
altitudes of Colorado where all the year one can 
see for eighty miles and, on the Atlantic border, 
wait the summer through for the fuller atmos- 
phere which the fall will bring, that by its tender 
envelopment the vividness and detail which is 
characteristic of the American landscape may 
give place to what is serviceable to the purposes 
of painting. 

It is because of misunderstanding on this point 

that we of the Western Hemisphere may wrongly 

challenge foreign landscape, judging it upon the 

natural aspect of our own country. The un- 



travelled American or he who has been there 
without seeing things, is not aware that distinctly 
different conditions prevail in Europe than with 
us, especially above latitude 40. 

Advantage in the paintability of subject there- 
fore lies distinctly with the European artist, 
and it may be because he has to labor against 
these odds that the American landscapist has 
forged to the front and is now leading his Euro- 
pean brethren. It must, however, be acknowl- 
edged that he acquired what he knows concern- 
ing landscape from the art and nature of Europe 
from Impressionism with its important legacy 
of color, which has been acknowledged in vary- 
ing degree by all our painters, and from the 
"school of 1830," on which is based the tonal 
movement of the present. 

Other than perspective of values, no impor- 
tance should be attached to that which, with the 
inartistic mind, is regarded so important a qual- 
ity. The art instruction which the common 
school of the past generation offered was based 
on perspective, its problems, susceptible of never 
ending circumventions, being spread in an inter- 
minable maze before the student. Great respect 
for this " lion in the path " was a natural result 
and "at least a two years' study " of these prob- 
lems was thought necessary before practical 
work in art could commence. (See Appendix.) 

Mr. Kuskin's fling at the perspective labyrinth 

would have been more authoritative than it 

proved, had he not too often lessened our faith 

by the cry of wolf when it proved a false alarm. 



There is a single truth \vhich, though simple, 
was never known to Oriental art, namely ; 
that in every picture there must be a real or un- 
derstood horizon the level of the painter's 
eye, that all lines above this will descend and 
all lines below will rise to it as they recede. 

But upon aerial perspective depends the ques- 
tion of detail in the receding object and this to 
the painter is of first importance. To temper a 
local color so that it shall settle itself to a nicety 
at any distance, in the perspective scheme, and to 
express the exact degree of shadow which a 
given color shall have under a given light and at 
a given distance are problems which absorb four- 
fifths of the painter's attention. 

If the features of a man a hundred yards away 
be painted with the same fidelity as though he 
stood but ten yards distant the aerial balance is 
disturbed, the man being brought nearer than 
his place on the perspective plan allows. 

At a mile's range a tree to the painter is not 
an object expressing a combination of leaves and 
branches, but a solid colored mass having its 
light and shade and perhaps perforated by the 
sky. It is with natural aspect and not natural 
fact that the painter deals. 

Pre-Eaphaelite art practised this phase of hon- 
esty, which, in our own day was revived in 
England. In this later coterie of pre-Raphaelite 
brethren was but one painter, the others, men of 
varying artistic perceptions and impulses. To 
the painter it in time became evident that he was 
out of place in this company and the commen- 


tary of his withdrawal proved more forcible than 
any to be made by an outsider. 

When, therefore, judgment be applied to a 
work of painting it must be with a knowledge of 
natural aspect in mind, not necessarily related, 
even vaguely, to the scene under consideration, 
but such as has come by the absorption of nature's 
moods, whereby, with the cause given, the effect 
may be known as a familiar sequence. The pub- 
lic too should be sufficiently knowing to catch 
the code signals of each artist whereby these 
natural facts are symbolled. 

Herein has now been set forth, as concisely as 
possible, the few considerations which are ever 
present to the painter. The connoisseur Avho 
would judge of his work, either subjectively or 
technically, must follow in his footprints and be 
careful to follow closely. He must appreciate 
the differences in the creeds of workers in color 
and not apply the formulas of impressionism to 
works in tone. He must not emphasize the im- 
portance of drawing in the work which clearly 
speaks of color and by its technique ignores all 
else; nor expect the miracle of luscious, trans- 
lucent color in a work demanding the minute 
drawing of detail. He can, however, be sure that 
the criteria of judgment which under all circum- 
stances will apply are : 

Balanced and unified composition, both of line 
and mass. 

Harmony of color, expressed by the correla- 
tion of all colors throughout the picture. 


Tone, or the unification of all colors upon the 
basis of a given hue. 

Values, or the relation of the shades of an 
object to each other and the degree of relation 
between one object and another. 

Envelopment, or the sense of air with which 
objects are surrounded. 

With these five ideas in mind the critic of 
Philistia may enter the gallery, constituting him- 
self a jury of one, assured he is armed with every 
consideration which influenced the artist in his 
work and the art committee in its acceptance 

Judgment however does not end here. These 
constitute the tables of the law, and law finds its 
true interpretation only in the spirit of the living 




IF discernment was ours to trace through the 
maze of fashion and experimental originality the 
living principle of true art, the caprice of taste 
would have little to do with the comfort of our 
convictions or the worth of our investments. 

Fallacy has its short triumphs and the per- 
suasive critic or the creator of art values may 
effect real value but for a day. The limit of the 
credulity of the public, which Lincoln has immor- 
talized, is the basis of hope. 

The public in time rights itself. 

Error in discerning this living principle in art 
is cause for the deepest contrition at the confes- 
sional of modern life. Unsigned and unrecog- 
nized works by modern masters have been re- 
jected by juries to whom in haste the doors of the 
Salon or Society have been reopened with apologies. 
The nation which assumes the highest degree of 
aesthetic perception turned its back on Millet and 
Corot and Courbet and Manet and Puvis de 
Chavannes, rejecting their best, and has honored 
yesterday what it spurns to-day. The feverish 
delirium of the upper culture demands " some 
new thing," and Athens, Paris, London and New 
York concede it. 

But what has lived ? What successive gener- 
ations have believed in may be believed by us ; a 
[ 250] 


thought expressed by the author of " Modern 
Painters " in one magnificent sentence, contain- 
ing 153 words and too long for quotation. The 
argument is based on the common sense of man- 
kind. It has however this objection. Judgment 
by such agreement is bound to be cumulative. 
What is good in the beginning is better to-day, 
still better to-morrow, then great, then wonder, 
ful, then divine. 

This is the Kaphaelesque progression, and if 
fifty persons were asked who was the greatest 
painter, forty-nine would say Kaphael, without 
discrimination. The fiftieth might have observed 
what all painters know, that Kaphael was not a 
great painter, either as colorist or technician. 
The opinion in this contention of Yelasquez that 
of all painters he studied at Rome, Raphael 
pleased him least, is a judgment of a colorist and 
a technician, the more valuable because rendered 
before the ministrations of oil and granular 
secretion had enveloped his work in the mystery 
from which it speaks to us. As a painter and 
draughtsman Raphael is perhaps outclassed by 
Bouguereau, Cabanel or Lefevre of our own time, 
and as a composer of either decorative or pictor- 
ial design he has had superiors. But the work of 
Raphael possesses the loving unction of real con- 
viction and nothing to which he put his well 
trained hand failed of the baptism of genius. 
Through this mark, therefore, it will live forever. 
Nor should any work require more than this for 
continuous life. Each age should be distinctive. 

The bias of judgment through the cumulative 


regard of successive centuries is what has created 
the popular disparity between the old and modern 
masters, and it must not be forgotten that the 
harmony of color and its glowing quality is 
largely the gift of these centuries, a fact made 
cruelly plain to those who have restored pictures 
and tampered with their secrets. 

It will be a surprise to the average man in that 
realm of perfect truth which lies beyond, to 
mark, in the association of artists of all ages, 
when the divisions of schools, periods and petty 
formulas are forgotten, that Eaphael will grasp 
the hand of Abbott Thayer, saying to him in the 
never dying fervor of art enthusiasm and with 
the acknowledgment of limitations, which is one 
of the signs of greatness ; 

" O, that I had had thy glorious quality of 
technical subtlety in place of the mechanical 
directness in which I labored ! " and he in turn to 
be reminded that had he paused for this, the span 
of his short life were measured long before he 
had accomplished half his work. 

A kindred bias is the eventual acceptance of 
whatever is persisted in. Almost any form in 
which a technically good artist may express his 
idea will in time find acceptance. It has the 
persuasion of the advertisement, offering what 
we do not want. In time we imagine we do. 
Duplications of Cuyp's very puerile arrangement 
of parts, as in the " Departure for the Chase " 
to be found in others of his pictures, work in our 
minds mitigation for those faults. The belief in 
self has the singular magnetic potency of draw- 


ing and turning us. A stronger magnet must 
then be the living principle. We find it in 
unity. Originality compromises this at its peril. 

And that discrimination against the prophet 
in his own country! Under its ban the native 
artist left his home and dwelt abroad ; but the 
expatriation which produced pictures of Dutch 
and French peasants by native painters was in 
time condemned. The good of the foreign 
experience lay in the medals which were brought 
back out of banishment. These turned the tide 
of thoughtless prejudice, and international com- 
petitions have kept it rising. 

But the worth of the foreign signature is now 
of the lesser reckonings ; for with the same spirit 
in which the native artist would annihilate the 
tariff on foreign art, have the best painters of 
Europe declared "there shall be no nationality 
in art " ; for art is individual and submits to the 
government stamp only by courtesy. 

Happy that nation which, when necessary, can 
believe in its own, not to exclusion, from clannish 
pride, but on the basis of that simple canon 
adopted by the world of sport ; " Let the best 

The commonest bias to judgment is also the 
most vulgar price. The reply of the man of 
wealth to the statement that a recent purchase 
was an inferior example of an artist's work ; " I 
paid ten thousand for it. Of course it's all 
right," was considered final to the critic. The 
man whose first judgment concerning an elaborate 
picture of roses was turned to surprise and 


wonder when told the price, which in time led 
to respect and then purchase, may find parallels 
in most of the collections of Philistia. "The 
value of a picture is what some one will pay for 
it " is a maxim of the creators of picture values 
and upon it the " picture business " has its work- 
ing basis. And so together with the good of 
foreign art have the Meyer Yon Bremens and 
the Verbeckhovens, the creations of the school 
of smiles and millinery, and the failures and half 
successes of impressionism, together with its good, 
ueen cornered, and unloaded upon the ingenuous 

The most insidious bias of judgment is that 
developed by the art historian, the man who 
really knows. 

Serene and above the petty matters which 
concern the buyer of art and perplex the pro- 
ducer, he pours forth his jeremiads upon the age 
and its art, subjecting them to indefensible com- 
parisons with the fifteenth century and deploring 
the materialism of modern times. 

The argument is that out of the heart the 
mouth must speak ; can men gather figs from 
thistles : is it reasonable to expect great art 
when men and messages are transported by 
steam and electricity, in the face of Emerson's 
contention that art is antagonistic to hurry ? 
The argument neglects the fact that this pres- 
ent complex life is such because it has added 
one by one these separate interests to those 
which it has received as an inheritance, each 
of which in its own narrowing niche having 


been preserved under the guardianship of the 

The art instinct has never died out ; but art, 
which aforetime was the only thought of the 
humanists, has been obliged to move up and 
become condensed. But mark, the priests who 
keep alive her fires can still show their ordina- 
tion from the hands of the divine Raphael. The 
age may be unsympathetic, but for those who 
will worship, the fire burns. Whereas art was 
once uplifted by the joyous acclaim of the whole 
people, she must now fight for space in a jostling 
competition. But is it not more reasonable that 
the prophet lay aside his sackcloth and accept 
the conditions of the new era, acknowledging 
that art has had its day in the sanctuary and has 
now come to adorn the home and that of neces- 
sity therefore the conditions of subject and of 
size must be altered ? The impulse which afore- 
time expressed itself in ideals is now satisfied to 
become reflective of the emotions. The change 
which has restricted the range in the grander 
reaches of the ideal has resulted in the closer 
and more intimate friendship with nature. The 
effort which was primarily ideal now turns its 
fervor into the quality of its means. 




IF there be a basis of reliance for continuous 
life and consequent value, a search for the living 
principle must be made in those works which the 
world will not let die. And this labor will be 
aided by the exclusion of such as have had their 
day and passed. Although the verdict suggested 
in the fostering care of the people or in its lack, 
may be wrong, as future ages may show, yet for 
us in our inquiry in the twentieth century this 
jury is our only court of appeal and its dictum 
must be final. 

"We command a view of the long line of art 
unfolding as a river flows, in winding course 
from meagre sources, and through untoward ob- 
structions into a natural bed which awaits it, 
now deep and swollen, now slender, now graceful, 
.now turbid, here breaking into smaller threads 
stretching into opposed directions, here again 
uniting and deepening, and we mark in all of its 
variety of course and depth, the narrow line of 
the channel. A slender line there is touching 
hands through all generations from the painters 
of the twilight of Art to the painters of the 
present who have seen all of its light and for 
whom too much of its brilliancy has proved 
bewildering. The historv of art is perforce full 


of the chronicles of unfruitful effort and the 
galleries as replete with unprofitable pictures. 
Our ardent though rapid quest will, unaided by 
the catalogue, discover for us the real, and sift 
it free of the spurious if we have settled with 
ourselves what art is and what its purpose. If 
we hold to the present popular notion that art is 
imitation, the results will come out at variance 
with the popular opinion of five centuries. If, 
on the other hand, we delegate to its proper 
place fidelity to the surface of nature, we must 
of necessity seek still further for its essence. 
This is subjective and not objective. 

To make apparent a statement the edge of 
which strikes dull from much use in purely philo- 
sophical lingo, let us take the case of a picture 
representing a laborer with his horse. The idea 
for the expression of which the few elements 
of field, man and beast, are employed is Toil. 
Whether then the man and beast be in actual 
labor or not, the dominant idea in the artist's 
mind is that they are or have been laboring; 
that that is what they stand for, that idea to be 
presented in the strongest possible way. " The 
strongest possible way " is the question to be de- 
bated. Individual artists interpret this as suits 
their temperament, the jury therefore sits in 
judgment upon the temperament as the exponent 
of " the strongest possible way." With the idea 
of toil in mind one artist is moved to present its 
unadorned force, careful not to weaken the con- 
ception by the addition of anything superfluous 
or extraneous to the idea. Its force is therefore 


ideal force and the presentation appeals to and 
moves us on this basis. Another will see in the 
subject of a landscape, a man and a horse, an 
opportunity presented of detail and of surfaces 
and will delight in expressing what he knows to 
do cleverly. Under this impulse the dexterity 
of his art is poured forth ; the long training of 
the workshop aids him. He paints the horse 
and makes it look not only like a real horse, but 
a particular one. The bourgeois claps his hands 
exclaiming, " See it is unmistakably old Dobbin, 
the white spot on his fetlock is there and his tail 
ragged on the end ; and the laborer, I know him 
at once. How true to life with side whiskers 
and that ugly cut across the forehead and his 
hat with the hole in it. The field too is all 
there, the stones, the weeds, the rows of stubble, 
nothing slighted. And the action of the light 
too, what a relief the figures possess, how like 
colored photographs they stand out, clear, sharp 
and unmistakable." 

A third artist, without sacrificing the individ- 
ual character of the horse will yet represent him 
in such a way that one feels first the idea of a 
laboring horse and afterward notes that he is a 
particular horse, and in like manner with the man 
of the picture. This artist's conception lies mid- 
way between the two extremes and in conse- 
quence expresses greater truth than either. He 
poises himself on the magic line spanning the 
chasm between these opposing walls, supported 
by the balancing pole of the real and ideal, lightly 
gripped in the centre. 



But to return to the first in the spirit of 
nature-love and truth to prove if it be worthy. 
Judged on this scale does it stand? Coordi- 
nately with the idea of toil, does it violate the 
laws of the universe; do the surfaces thereof 
reflect the light of day ; is the color probable ; 
is the action possible ? If under this scrutiny 
the work fails, its acceptable idealistic expression 
cannot save it. 

It is here that the idealist pleads in vain for 
the painters of the groping periods of art, or for 
the pre-Raphaelites of the nineteenth century, 
who in their spirit beg that we accept their 
unctuous will for the deed completely wrought. 
When however they do fill the condition of nat- 
ural aspect in its fundamental essence, in its 
condition of non-violation of physical law, when, 
uncompromised by such discrepancy, the present- 
ment of the idea is complete and this alone 
engages us, the work by virtue of its higher 
motive takes higher rank in the scale of art than 
that in which the idea has been delegated to a 
place second to the shell which encloses it. It is 
the art which fulfills both requirements with the 
idea paramount that has survived in all ages. 
The reverse order is not sustained by the history 
of art. Mark the line from the early masters to 
the present, do you not find the description in- 
cludes " the idealists " who could paint ? The 
list would be a long and involved one, taking 
its start in Italy with Botticelli, Giotto, Fra 
Angelico, Raphael, Leonardo da Yinci, Michael 
Angelo, Andrea del Sarto, Fra Bartolomeo, 
[ 2 59] 


Titian, Giorgione, and extending thence to our 
own time inclusive of Millet, Corot, Watts, 
Turner, Blake, Eousseau Mauve, Puvis de Cha- 
vannes and Ryder men of all complexions in 
art, and typical of many more quite as diverse 
in their subjects and modes of expression but 
who place the idea, the motive, the emotion, the 
type, before the thing depicted. For them the 
letter of the law killeth, but the spirit giveth 
life. This of course raises issue with the nat- 
uralistic school a school which believes in ren- 
dering Nature as she is, without rearrangement, 
addition, substraction or idealization ; a school 
presuming the artist to be a copyist, and founded 
not on the principles of design, but the love of 

Says W. J. Stillman in his impassioned polemic 
on " The Kevival of Art " : " The painter whose 
devotion to nature is such that he never leaves 
or varies from her, may be, and likely is, a hap- 
pier man than if he were a true artist. . . . 
To men of the other type, the external image 
disturbs the ideal which is so complete that it 
admits no interference. To them she may offer 
suggestions, but lays down no law." 

The complaint of Turner that Nature so fre- 
quently put him out contains for us what it 
should have expressed to Ruskin, the real atti- 
tude which he held toward nature, but which 
Euskin in his enthusiastic love of nature did 
not, or would not perceive. "What the master 
artist saw and utilized in nature were forms for 
his designs and sentiment for emotional expres- 
[ 260 ] 


sion. Yet the recorder of his labors followed 
after, verifying his findings with near-sighted 
scrutiny, lauding him with commendations for 
keen observation in noting rock fractures, the 
bark of trees, grass, or the precise shape of 
clouds, undismayed when his hero neglected all 
these if they interfered with his art. 

The point of the argument as stated by the 
idealists can be understood only save through 
the element in our nature from which art draws 
its vitality. Its deduction is thus bluntly ex- 
pressed ; " the nearest to nature, the farther from 
art," an apparent paradox paralleled by the epi- 
gram, " the nearer the church, the farther from 

Both of them, out of their hollow clamor, echo 
back a startling truth : Not form, but spirit. 
Thus did Rembrandt work for the spirit of the 
man and the art to be got from the sitting subject. 
Thus did Millet reveal in his representation of a 
single toiler the type of all labor. Thus did 
Corot stop, when he had produced the spirit of 
the morning, knowing well his nymphs would 
have vanished if the mystery of their hiding- 
places was entirely laid bare, nor ever come to 
him again had he exposed the full truth of form 
and feature. 

It is the touch of poesy which has glorified 
these works and those of their kind, the spring 
of the unwritten law yielding preeminence to the 
emotional arts. Impulse is the life of it : it dies 
when short tethered by specific limitations. 

On this basis the way seems opened to settle 


the changeful formulas of taste ; why the rejec- 
tion of what for the moment has held the pin- 
nacle of popular favor; why, for instance, the 
waning of interest in the detailists of the bril- 
liant French-Spanish School, the school of For- 
tuny, Madrazzo, Villegas, Rico, or of the work of 
Meissonier, who as a detailist eclipsed them all. 
A simple analysis of their work in toto will prove 
that their best pictures are those in which a senti- 
ment has dominated and in which breadth and 
largeness of effect is strongest. Thus Meisso- 
nier's "Return of Napoleon from Moscow," is a' 
better picture than his " Napoleon III surrounded 
by his staff in Sicily," which latter is only a 
marvellous achievement at painting detail in the 
smallest possible size, and lacks entirely the force- 
ful composition of mass and light and shade of 
the former. Thus does the " Spanish Marriage " 
of Fortuny outclass his " Academicians Choosing 
a Model," which besides lacking the reserve force 
of the former has its source in flippant imagina- 
tion ; and so may the many other shifts of time 
and tide in the graphic arts be measured and 
chronicled upon the basis of the emotions and the 
formative touch of the poetic, upon the sequence 
of the artist's regard for the ideal and the real, 
and the degree of his approach toward either. 
The concensus of the ages regarding finish, dex- 
terity, cleverness, and chic is that in the scale of 
art they weigh less than the simple breadth of 
effect which they so frequently interrupt. The 
school of Teniers with all of its detail was pre- 
servative of this. 

[ 262] 


It is on the question of detail and the careful 
anxiety concerning the surface that the art in- 
stinct avoids science, refusing her microscope in 
preference for the unaided impression of normal 
sight. The living art of the ages is that in which 
the painter is seen to be greater than his theme, 
in which we acknowledge the power first, and 
afterward the product. It is the unfettered mode 
allowing the greatest individualism of expres- 
sion; it is, in short, the man end of it which 
lives, for his is the immortal life. 

263 j 


THE argument of the book is here reduced to 
a working basis. 

The first point settled in the making of a pic- 
ture after the subject has germinated, is the shape 

into which the items of the con- 

THE CONCEPT ,. , ,, , 

cept are to be edited ; the second 

is the arrangement of those items within the pro- 
scribed limits; the third is the defining of the 
dark and light masses. This consideration forces 
the question whence the light, together with its 
answer, hence the shadow. 

The detail of the direction of light and the 
action of the shadows cuts the pictorial inten- 
tion clear of the decorative design. 
Design is a good basis, its simplicity 
yielding favorably to the settlement of spaces 
and the construction of lines, but its chief pur- 
pose ends when it has cleared the field of little 
things and reduced the first conception, which 
usually comes as a bundle of items, to a broad 
and dignified foundation into which these little 
things are set. 

A severe, space-filling design in three tones 

or four will place the student in 

a position of confidence to proceed 

with detail which, until the design has settled 



well into its four sides, should be persistently 
excluded. It may, however, be found that the 
essence of certain subjects lies in a small item 
of detail. This, when known, must be allowed 
for in the design. 

Of first importance in composition is the notion 
of Light and Dark, to which Line is second. In 

the tone design line is but the 

edge of the masses. Line as 

the basis of the form of the design is reduced to 
a few forms which with modifications become 
the framework for all pictorial structure. (See 
page IT.) Line as an element of beauty sufficient 
of itself to become subjective is rare, an excep- 
tion in pictorial art. (See page 131.) 

The aesthetics of Line must be comprehended 
and felt in its symbolism. The form into which 
lines may lead the subject should have the full 
knowledge of the composer. 

The uplift of the simple vertical is spiritual as 
well as mechanical. It may carry the thought 
to higher levels or may sup- 
P rt Herewith an opposed line. 
In either case its strength is 
majestic and in so far as this line dominates does 
the picture receive its quality. 

A group of pines or the columns of the Greek 
or Egyptian temple alike induce solemnity, quie- 
tude and dignity. The hori- 

zontal is a line less command- 
ing than the vertical with its 

upright strength, the symbol of repose, serenity, 

and reserved motion. 

[ 266] 


The diagonal being an unsupported line natu- 
rally suggests instability, change, 
motion, transit. Its purpose fre- 
quently is to connect the stabler 
forms of the composition or lead therefrom. 

The curvilinear line is the basis of variety and 
graceful movement. As an adjunct, it assists the 

SEE PAGE 123 se( l uence f parts. In the latter 

capacity it is of great importance 

to the composer. It is of course the basis of the 

circle as well as the important notion of circular 

construction and observation. 

Given the subject and means of expression the 
final labor is the restraint or enforcement of parts 
in the degree of their importance. This requires 
ingenuity and knowledge and frequently demands 
a reconstruction of the original scheme. 

The most absolute and the most important idea 
in the production of art is Principality, that one 
object or idea shall be supreme. 
Its correlative idea contains in 
it the hardships of composition, 
namely, Sacrifice. This forces a graded scale of 
importance or attraction throughout the entire 

The idea has complete exposition in the vase 
or baluster in which the commanding lines of 
the body find both support and extension through 
the lesser associated parts. These stand as types 
of complete art revealing the uncompromising 
principles of domination and subordination. 

In the picture, complete in its chiaroscuro, 
these principles are as easily apprehended as 


with the more tangible line and space of the 
solid form. The " Cow in a Stable," by Mauve 
(see page 59), contains by his management of 
this rude and simple subject all the possibilities 
opened to and demanded by compositions involv- 
ing many elements. It might stand as the light 
and dark scheme for some of the allegories of 
Rubens, Wiertz or Correggio, or for many genre 
interiors, or for an " arrangement " of flowers. 

When once the importance of this principle is 
realized many of the pitfalls into which begin- 
ners are so prone to fall are covered, and that 
forever. Time and regrets are both saved to the 
student who will pause for the absorption of the 
few principles on which all the arts are founded. 

This idea may seem to disturb the notion of 
balance across the centre, especially when the 
object which receives our first consideration occu- 
pies one side of the picture. A study of the 
postulates together with the principle of the 
steelyard and the knowledge of picture balance 
will clear any apprehension of conflict. 

Above and beyond the object which dominates 
all others is the idea which dominates the pic- 
ture. Such may be light, gloom, 
THE iDEA NANT s P ace action, passion, repose, 
communion, humor, or what- 
ever has stimulated and therefore must govern 
the composition. If with the sentiment of Re- 
pose as subjective, the principal object expresses 
action, there must necessarily be conflict be- 
tween the idea and the reality. 

Action, however, may very appropriately be 
[ 268 ] 


introduced into a conception of repose, its con- 
trast heightening this emotion ; the creeping 
baby, the frolicking kitten, the swinging pen- 
dulum, the distant toilers observed by a nearer 
group at rest. 

The point where a counter emotion weakens 
and where it strengthens the idea is determined 
on a scale of degree, many necessary parts taking 
precedence thereto before the opposed sentiment 
shall attract us. These ideas, correlative to their 
principal, have also their scale of attraction, and 
only in the formal arrangement of allegory and 
decoration may two units be allowed the same 
degree of attraction. This is one of the most 
frequent forms in which weak composition de- 
velops, leaving the mind uncertain as to the 
sequence, and the eye wavering between the 
equal claims of separated parts. The neglect of 
leading lines, or of forcing a logical procedure 
from part to part, so that no part may escape the 
continuous inspection of all, produces decompo- 
sition. The avoidance of inharmony must of 
course yield harmony. 

Harmony, therefore, though a necessary prin- 
ciple in all art, does not push 
HARMONY r ,, , ,, f -, 

herself to the front as does 

Principality. She follows naturally, if allowed to. 
Of the other principles (see page 223), Consist- 
ency or breadth, Continuity 
THE MUST HE'S AND and its complement, Con- 


COMPOSITION trast, associate themselves in 
greater or less degree with 
Principality and Harmony, which are the must 


be's ; while Repetition, Eadiation, Curvature and 
Interchange are reckoned as the may be's of 

The basis of all plane presentation is founded 
on perspective, an absolute science giving abso- 
lute satisfaction to all who would 

have it. Know^ng that a figure 

must be of a certain height if it occupy a given 
space is often a shorter road to the fact even 
though it demand a perspective working plan 
than feeling for it with the best of artistic inten- 
tions. One may feel all around the spot before 
finding it, and meanwhile the scientist has been 
saving his temper. 

In all compositions demanding architectural 
environment or many figures, perspective be- 
comes essential, at least as a time saver. Yet if 
the science never existed such art as embraces 
many figures and architecture could find ade- 
quate expression at the hands of the discerning 

The science of perspective does no more than 
acquaint the artist with any given angle. His 
knowledge of cause and effect in the universe, 
with an added art instinct, are equipment suffi- 
cient to obtain this. 

No part of art expression commands more of 
the mysterious reverence of the atechnic than 
perspective. It is that universal art term that 
includes very much to many people. When, after 
writing a thorough treatise on the subject, Mr. 
Ruskin remarked the essence of the whole thing 
can be known in twenty minutes, it was doubt- 
[ 2 7] 


less in rebuke of the unqualified suppositions of 
the artless public. 

The conception of balance clearly understood 
in the length, the height and the depth of a 

picture contains the whole truth of 
BALANCE .. , , . m , 

pictorial composition. The elements 

which war against unity and which we seek to 
extract, reveal themselves as the disturbers of 
balance and are to be found when the principles 
of balance are put into motion. 

Does divided interest vex us, the foreground 
absorbing so much interest that the background, 
where the real subject may lie, struggles in vain 
for its right; then we may know that the bal- 
ance through the depth of the picture has been 
disturbed. Does the middle distance attract us 
too much in passing to the distance where the 
real subject may lie ; then we may know that its 
attachment to the foreground or its sacrifice to 
the background is insufficient and that its shift 
in the right direction will restore balance. Do 
we feel that one side of the picture attracts our 
entire attention and the other side plays no part 
in the pictorial scheme, then we may know that 
the items of the lateral balance are wanting. 

It is rare to find apart from formality a com- 
position which develops to a finish in an orderly 
procedure. Once separated from the even bal- 
ance the picture becomes a sequence of compro- 
mises, the conciliation of each new element by 
the reconstruction of what is already there or 
the introduction of the added item which unity 


The argument reminds the picture maker that 
he is in like case with the voyageur who loads 
his canoe, sensible of the exquisite poise which 
his craft demands. Along its keelson he lays the 
items of his draught, careful for instance that his 
light and bulky blanket on one side is balanced 
by the smaller items of heavier weight in op- 
posed position. The bow under its load may be 
almost submerged and the onlooker ventures a 
warning. But again balance is restored when 
the seat at the other end is occupied as a final 
act in the calculation. 1 

The degree of attraction of objects in the bal- 
anced scheme must be a matter of individual 
decision as are many other applied principles in 
temperamental art. 

Color representing the natural aspect of ob- 
jects, color containing " tone," and color contain- 
ing tone quality or "tonal quality," are three 
aspects of color to be met with in accepted art. 

As with the sentiment of the art idea, whether 
it incline toward the real or the ideal, so the 

COLOE distinction applies between what is re- 
flective only of nature and what is re- 
flective also of the artist's temperament. It is a 
simple proposition in the scale of value and it 
works as truly when applied to color as to the 
art concept : the more of the man the better the 

1 "I should think the application of these principles of bal- 
ance to Architecture might be interesting and illuminating. 
The main principles of composition must be equally appreciable 
to Painting, Sculpture and Architecture and I should suspect 
the chain of validity for such principles as cannot bear this 
test." Letter from Fredrick Dielman, President of the National 
Academy, to the author. 


art. Were it not so the color-photograph would 
have preeminence. 

The first degree in the scale of color is repre- 
sented by that sort which applied to canvas to 
imitate a surface seems satisfying to the artist as 
nature-color. The second degree is that in which 
the color is made to harmonize with all other 
colors of the picture on the basis of a given hue. 
This tonal harmony may fail to reveal itself in 
many subjects in nature or in such arrangements 
of objects as the still-life painter might and often 
does collect, and is therefore clearly a quality 
with which the artist endows his work. Such 
painters as Whistler and his following see to it 
that this tonality inheres in all subjects which 
may be governed in the composition of color 
(such as his "arrangements" in the studio), so 
that the production of this harmony results nat- 
urally by following the subject. 

The color key is given in that selected hue 
which influences to a greater or less degree all 

the colors, even when these make vio- 

lent departures in the scheme of har- 
mony. Solicitous only of the quality of unified 
color, the majority of these painters (though this 
frequently does not include Mr. Whistler himself) 
concern themselves wholly with that thought, 
employing their pigment so directly that the 
miration of color is sacrificed. 

The production of this vibration is by agree- 
ment on the part of all great colorists impossible 
through impasted color or that applied flatly to 
the surface, which they declare cannot be as 


powerful, as significant or as beautiful as that 
which vibrates, either by reason of the juxta- 
position of color plainly seen, as with the im- 
pressionists, or of its broken tone, or by virtue of 
the influence of a transparent glaze of color 
which enables two colors to be seen at once. 

The last method is that of Titian, the second 
in combination with the last that of Rembrandt 
in his latest and best period, the first that of 
Monet, which contains the principle of coloration 
in its scientific analysis. The chasm between 
these men is not known in any such degree as a 
superficial notion of their respective arts might 
presuppose. The real disparity in color presenta- 
tion exists between all such painters and those 
who paint directly on white canvas, neglecting 
the influence of the undertone and the enrich- 
ment which enters into color by glazes (trans- 
parent color). 

Such painters may be able to represent most 
faithfully the true tints of Nature but not the 
true impression, for Nature is always expressive 
of that depth and strength which lies far in and 
which the painter of " quality " insists to render. 
To him it is that something containing the last 
word of a thorough statement, and without it 
the statement is a surface one. 

Technically, it may mean the labor of many 
repaintings, of color glazes, and of procedure 
from one process to another, so that the first 
statement on the canvas becomes the general but 
not the final dictum. Through these the work 
takes on that unctuousness of depth and strength 


by which one experiences the same thrill as 
through the deep reverberations of a musical 
tone from many instruments, simple tone being 
producible by one instrument. Practically, it is 
the pulsation of color in every part of the pic- 
ture felt by either the play of one color through 
another or by such broken color as may be ad- 
ministered by a single brush stroke loaded with 
several colors or by a single color so dragged 
across another as to leave some of the under 
color existent. 

Such technique produces the highest tonal 

quality. It cannot be supposed that Rembrandt 

glazed and repainted on his portraits 

for a lesser reason than to supply them 

with a quality which direct painting denied, nor 

that Frank Holl, of our own times, employed a like 

method for the sake of being like Rembrandt, 

Natural Color ; Tonal Color, representing na- 
ture ; and Tonality plus " Quality " (the last a 
vague term denoting depth and fullness of color) 
are three grades represented, the first by Meis- 
sonier in his " 1807 " (page 99), a picture devoid 
of tone ; the second by the portraits of Alice, by 
Chase, and Lady Archibald Campbell, by "Whistler 
(page 112) ; and the last or tonal quality, by the 
later works of George Fuller and Albert Ryder. 
Under these specified classes the lists of names 
in art are now lengthening and shortening, the 
indications of our present art pointing to a re- 
vival of the color quality of a former age. 

It was stated in the introduction that the com- 


mandments of this book would be the "must 
nots," yet for him who apprehends principles, 
commandments do not exist. A few conclusions 
from the foregoing arguments may, however, be 
of service to beginners in the practice of com- 

Structures to be avoided are : 

Those in which the lines all run one way with- 
out opposition : 

Those especially in which the bottom of the 
frame is paralleled : 

Those in which the perspective of a 
line or the edge of a mass happens to be a ver- 
tical : 

Those in which an opposing plane or attractive 
mass barricades the entrance of the picture : 

Those in which two masses in different planes 
happen to be the same size : 

Those in which objects of equal interest occur 
in the same picture : 

Those in which an object awkwardly prolongs 
a line : 

Those in which the line of the background 
duplicates the lines of the subject : 

Those in which the picture is cut by lines too 
long continued in any direction : 

Those in which radial lines fail to lead to a 
focal object : 

Those in which the items of a picture fail to 
present a natural sequence : 

Those in which the subject proper is not dig- 
nified by a conspicuous placement or is swamped 
by too attractive surroundings : 


Those in which the most energetic forms of 
construction are not allied to the principal but 
to secondary parts of the picture : 

Those formal compositions in which greater 
interest is shown at the sides than in the centre : 

Those in which the aBsthetic principle of the 
constructive form is antagonistic to the sentiment 
of the subject. 




"Adoration of the Magi," 149 
11 Alice, "W. M. Chase, 112,116 
"Alley near Middel- 

harnes," Hobbema . . 67 
"Alone," Israels. . Ill, 113 
"Ananias, Death of," Ra- 
phael 105 

' ' Annunciation, ' ' Botti- 
celli 56 

"Apollo and Daphne," 

Giorgione 104 

" Autumn Oaks," Inness . 95 


Bacon, Henry 109 

Bate, Francis, "Natural- 
istic Painting" .... 20 
"Beautiful Gate," Ra- 
phael 114, 119 

Beauty predominant in 

art 23 

Bernhardt, Sarah .... 33 
Bonheur, Auguste .... 95 
" Book of Truth," Claude 

Lorraine 119 

Boucher, "Forge of Vul- 
can," 100, 103 

Bongnereau 251 

Botticelli 18 

"Annunciation" . . 56 

" Allegory of Spring," 115 

Bull, "An Intrusion" .203 

Burne-Jones 218 

Burnet, John 184 

Burnet's "Light and 
Shade" 18 


Cabanel, kneeling female, 

95, 251 

"Cabaret" 53, 150 

" Card Players," Roybet . 95 
"Csesar, Death of," G6- 

rdme 55 

Carpeaux Ill 

Carriere .... 116, 181, 189 
Campbell, Lady Archi- 
bald, Whistler .... 112 
"Chant, The" . 129, 150, 175 
Chase, W. M., "Alice," 

112, 116 

Chavannes, Puvis de . . 190 
" Christ Healing the Sick," 

Rembrandt 106 

Clairin, "Sarah Bern- 
hardt" 45 

Composition, lacking, no 

picture 20 

Composition, the avoid- 
ance of faults 24 

Claude Lorraine . . 119, 161, 
164, 172 

Courbet 250 

Corot . . .95, 99, 101, 104, 
129, 138, 181, 182, 220, 250 
" Connoisseurs," Fortuny, 

28, 117, 136 

Correggio 16, 207 

"Cossacks' Reply," Re- 
pine 149 

"Crossing the Delaware," 

Leutze 95 

" Crucifixion," Morot, 112, 113 

Cuyp . . .18, 108, 122, 128, 

172, 252 


Dagnan-Bouveret, "Par- 
don in Brittany " ... 47 
" Dance, The," Carpeaux, 111 
David, "Rape of the 
Sabines" 47 



"Dead Warrior" .... 167 
"Death of the Vendean 

Chief," Wylie .... 95 
Detaille, "Salute to the 

Wounded" 41 

" Departure for the Chase, " 

Cuyp 108, 128 

"Descent from the Cross," 124 

Diaz 181 

"Doctors, The," Rem- 
brandt 150 

Domenichino ...... 18 

Dow, Arthur .... 185, 192 

Dow, Gerard, "The Her- 
mit" 100, 103 

Dupr6 68, 95 

Diirer 18, 204 

Dutch Women 50 


Emerson, poet-philoso- 
pher 14 

Emerson, Prof. P. H. . . 177 


"Feed my Sheep," Ra- 
phael 61 

"Forge of Vulcan," 

^ Boucher 100 

Fortuny, " Connoisseurs," 36, 

117, 136 
' ' Spanish Marriage, ' ' 

146, 262 
Form and color, synthesis, 15 

Fra Angelioo 118 

Fundamental forms ... 17 


Gainsborough .... 221 
GeYome, "Lion in the 

Desert " . . .30, 155, 167 

Death of Caesar, . 55, 61, 

Giorgione, Apollo and 

Daphne 104 

Giotto 109 

Gu6rin 203 

Gussow, " The Lovers " . 

134, 147 


Hamerton, P. G. . . 183, 221, 
224, 225 

Harrison, Alexander . 78 
"Hermit, The," Gerard 

Dow 100, 103 

Hobbema, "Alley near 

Middelhames " .... 67 
Hogarth . . .34, 97, 124, 125 

Hollinger 136 

"Holy Family," Andrea 

del Sarto 105 

Horsley Hinton, "Path- 
less" 57 

Hutt, Henry 154 


"Immaculate Concep- 
tion" 149 

"Indian" 45, 51 

"Inn, The," Teniers . .204 
Inness, George . . 25, 95, 172 
"Intrusion, An," Bull .203 
Isabey, " Return of Hunt- 
ing Party" . . . 145, 148 
Israels, "Alone" . . Ill, 113 


Jacque . . 107, 108, 130, 221 
"Jean d'Aro," Bastian 

Lepage 95 

Johnson, Eastman .... 135 


Kasebier, Miss ... 40, 135 
Knaus, "Madonna" . . 95 
" Row at a Peasants' 

Ball" 95 

" Kneeling figure," Caba- 

nel 95 



" Lady with Muff " . 

La Farge, John 209 

Lefevre 251 

Lepage, Bastian, " Jean 

d'Arc" 95 

Leasing 196 

[ 280] 


Lentze, "Crossing the 

Delaware " 95 

L'hennitte, "Cabaret" . 

53, 55 

Lorenzo 197 

Lorraine, Claude .... 49 


Maddox-Brown 218 

Madonna of the Chair . . 150 
Madonna, Child and St. 

John, Raphael . . 136, 204 
Madonna, Kuans .... 95 

Manet 190 

Marriage of Bacchus and 

Ariadne, Tintoretto . . 95 

Mauve . . 101, 137, 208, 232 

Meissonier, "1807" ... 95 

Michael Angelo ... 16, 109, 

125, 197, 204 

Millet . 82, 137, 138, 218, 250 
Moderns, excel in compo- 
sition 16 

"Moorings, Her Last," 

46, 61 
M o r o t, " Crucifixion, ' ' 

112, 113 
"Mother and Child," Qr- 

chardson . . 122, 127, 135 
"Municipal Guards," 

Rembrandt 141 

Munkacsy, "Milton and 

Daughters" .... 95, 154 
Murillo 161 


Napoleon 46 

Nature does not supply 

composition 21 

"Night Watch, The," 

Rembrandt . 148, 167, 168 

Nolpe 172 

Notan 166, 192 


Olga Nethersole 133 

' ' Orpheus and Eurydice, ' ' 
Corot 104 

Orchardson, " Mother and 
Child "... 122, 127, 135 


"Path of the Surf" . . 

45, 85, 108, 126 
" Pathless," Horaley Hin- 

ton 57 

" Patroclus, Body of " . 46, 99 

Paul Potter 18 

Paul Veronese .... 157 
Pettie, "James II and 

Duke of Monmouth " . 129 
Photographic Salons . . . 177 

Postulates 29 

Portraits .... . . 21 

"Poulterers, The," Hol- 
lander .... 47, 135, 147 

Prendegast, "North 

River " 203, 205 

Principles to be sought . 12 
"Prophets, The," Sargent, 118 
Pyle, Howard, " Travel 
of the Soul" ... 165, 176 


Ranger, Henry . 120, 172, 240 

Raphael . 18, 46, 61, 105, 109, 

114, 119, 149, 181, 251, 252 

Rembrandt . .141, 151, 157, 

181, 182, 190 

"The Night Wateh," 

148, 150, 167, 168 

" The Doctors " . . 150 

" Christ Healing the . 

Sick" 106 

"The Syndics" . . 57 

Repine, " Cossack's Re- 
ply" 149 

" Repose of the Reapers," 

L'hermitte . . . 128, 146 

Reynolds, Sir Joshua . 22, 65, 

157, 163 

"Return of the Hunting 
Party," Isabey . . 145, 148 

Robinson, P. H 185 

Rossetti 218 

Rousseau 68 

" Row at Peasants' Ball," 
Knaus . . 95 



Roybet, "Card Players," 95 

Rubens . . .16, 39, 158, 161 


Ruskin . . 13, 142, 151, 182, 

223, 224 

Ruysdael 172 


Sargent ...... 118, 135 

Sarto, Andrea del, "Holy 
Family " 105 

Schilling, "Spring Plough- 
ing" 77 

Sciena, Marcus de . . . . 125 

Schofield, "Stream in 
Winter" 127 

"Shepherd and Sheep," 
Jacque ... . 108, 130 

"Shepherdess," Millet . 82 

"Sistine Madonna," Ra- 
phael 46, 149 

"Slaying of the Unpropi- 
tious Messengers" . 86, 87 

Smith, F. Hopkinson, 152, 210 

"Spanish Marriage," For- 
tuny 146 

"Spring, Allegory of," 
Botticelli 115 

Steiglitz, Alfred, "Dutch 
Women" 50 

"Syndics, The," Rem- 
brandt .... 57, 141, 150 


Teniere 18, 204 

Thayer, Abbott 252 

Tintoretto .... 95, 96, 157 

Titian 157, 181 

"Transfiguration" . . .149 

"Travel of the Soul," 

Howard Pyle 165 

Turner 68, 95, 172 


"Van der Geest," Van 

Dyck 91 

Vandevelde 172 

Van Dyke, J. C 214 

Van Marke . 221 

Velasquez ... 57, 161, 207 

Venetians 16 

Verbockhoven 254 

"Ville d'Avray," Corot, 

95, 101, 104 

Von Bremen, Meyer . . . 254 
"Virgin Mary, Birth of," 
Diirer ....... 204 

" Virgin, Enthroned " . .149 


Wagner, Richard .... 64 

Walker 137 

Watts 96 

Wenzell 154 

Wiertz, Fighting over the 

Body of Patroclus ... 99 

Wilson, F. H 178 

Whistler . . 20, 97, 101, 112, 

115, 153, 181 

Wouvennanns .... 18, 221 

Wyant 172 

Wylie, "Death of the 

Vendean Chief " ... 95 


Yon, Edmond .... 75, 169 





Art Poore, Henry Rankin 

Paint Pictorial composition 

P and the critical judgement 

of pictures